The world has shrunk. The vastness that our ancestors experienced is no longer. We have paved roads, built bridges, rode the waves and flew among the clouds to make sure that no place was beyond our reach, we aimed for the moon and touched it. As a generation we are today the most connected we have ever been, the most exposed and yet our social and intellectual disconnect is ever so prevalent. Information is abundant, it flows through so many sources that what once was a river one waded through is now a flood we struggle to keep afloat in. How difficult it has become to decipher the truth from the fictitious, to trust one’s own eyes over the art of image distortion. Information is power and if readings have taught us anything, it is that power inevitably corrupts.
Realising that the information torrent is not to be restrained we built dams, cyber dams that attempted to identify us and according to our online actions, categorised and sorted information based on what the algorithms concluded our interests were. At the onset it seemed a logical solution to an impending problem, one is fed the information he/she is interested in and the rest is filtered out, but just like any experiment the long-term results tend to vary from immediate ones. In this case the negative effects have surpassed those of the initial problem for by altering the way we consume information we have altered the way we differentiate, analyse and digest it.
Bewildered by the sheer amount of information we have devised a way that has made us the most sorted culture we have ever been, categorised by apps and search engines we are no longer hiding from the other, we are blind to it. We have the choice to follow the news that is important to us, categorised into subjects of interest of course, we choose the images we would like to see and the people we have conversations with based on criteria that appeal to us, we have unconsciously placed ourselves in the information comfort zone. It is common knowledge that surrendering to the comfort zone limits one’s experiences and keeps them from mental and emotional growth yet people have found a way to sort themselves into these comfortable ideological bunkers in which only the familiar is available.
Many of us no longer expose or surround ourselves with people who disagree with us politically or ideologically, we have the ability through a click of a button to silence those whose beliefs we find culturally offensive or merely different, and while this might be both convenient and comfortable it is also dangerous.
The walls we build around us to keep the noise out only reverberate the same ideas, notions and beliefs we enforce, leaving no room for debate. When we opt out of an argument we are choosing to ignore opposing views thereby failing to understand the other. Humans are social creatures that thrive through connections, ones that cannot be made if we willingly close our minds henceforth closing our hearts to that which is different. As we seek out our preferred social settings we are contributing to the segregation of nations. There is great benefit in the variety of opinions and the outcomes of intellectual debates, a fostering of a more tolerant society one that is all the more enlightened for it.
It is fear that reinforces the walls we build, people are afraid to be swayed from their convictions, afraid to question their moral instincts and expose themselves to ideas that may challenge the fabric of their entire existence, but what are we if we are not seeking to better ourselves?
Change is nothing to be afraid of and if one’s curiosity changes them then they will be all the wiser for it. So read outside your preferred genre, expose your eyes to art that provokes you and engage in conversations with people who hail from worlds alien to your own, only then will you pave intellectual roads, build emotional bridges, ride diverse journeys, and fly among ideas that liberate. Aim for that which you fear and touch it for the closer we get to that which scares us the less afraid we become.
This article was first published in The Gulf Today newspaper 20 February, 2018 http://bit.ly/2BEkfh3
Arabic version of the article appeared on the same day in Al Khaleej newspaper http://bit.ly/2ocPrwD