Echo Chambers (Originally Published 7/19/10)

I've touched on this before, but one of the things I think that can drag people down without them realizing it is peoples' tendency to place themselves in echo chambers and live their lives amongst people who look, act, and think like them. Not everyone has the option to do this, and of course, the more money and power you have, the more you can select who you fraternize with, but we all do this to some degree. We join organizations that we feel reflect our views, we see movies and watch TV shows that lean the same way we do, we, um, join eating clubs full of people like us. To some degree, this isn't really a bad thing. It's comforting to exist in a space that we can consider an extension of ourselves. And the exact opposite isn't necessarily better. You won't see me hanging out at Klan rallies trying to “experience” what they're like.

But there's a middle ground here, that we ought to do more of. (And when I say “we,” I, as always, include myself among the people who should take my advice.) 

I'm not saying we need to join some sort of anti-gay organization if we're LGBTQ individuals, or the Klan example I used above. But more of us need to mix it up with people we assume we might not get along with. All of the people we consider close to us shouldn't be 100% similar, whether we're talking race, gender, religion (or lack thereof), nationality, etc.

I'm preaching to the choir with most of you. But I remember being at Starbucks and visually eavesdropping on a woman's facebook page (oh, shut up, she kept laughing and she was sitting next to me), and my lord, every single one of her friends seemed to look exactly the same, and just like her as well.

I don't know that woman, so that's probably a poor example to use. But, simply enough, I think we should be far less afraid to mingle with those that seem utterly foreign to us. They say that one of the best ways to break down the barriers of prejudice is to engage in positive interaction with groups you might have thought poorly of otherwise. We ought to try it more.

I know that among the 5 or 6 most frequent commenters on this site/my notes, only one or two of them actually agree with me on most political issues. I'm no hero whatsoever, but at least I'm trying to follow my own advice.

And so, I ask you, who in your life represents a departure from your echo chamber but still makes you glad to know them? I could easily start, as my tagging usually does, with Akil, Slavin and Kurt, but there are tons of others in my life whose brains work quite differently from mine, and my life is all the richer for it.

Peace and love,

Justin PBG

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Justin Gerald

Age: 28 Hometown: NYC Location: NYC Career: Education Undergrad: Princeton Grad: New School Likes: Cooking, Baseball, Socializing, Parks, Pop Culture, Feminism Loves: Traveling, Running, Lifting, Trivia, Teaching, Equality