Get Out Of Your Bubble

‘Yo, either you a part of the problem
Or part of the solution
What’s your contribution to life?
So many people complain, always talk about change yo
But what’s your contribution to life?’
Jurassic 5, Contribution

I recently set myself the goal of writing everyday — I enjoy writing, I’m more productive at work after I write, and it’s something I‘d like to get better at. I’ve stayed true to this goal for the past few weeks, but the aim was to publish something new each day too, which I haven’t been doing. I’ve started writing a bunch of posts lately, without finishing them, and I’ve been stuck on this one…

Normally I steer clear of talking politics, or current issues, for a few reasons:

a) I’m both a fairly new father and the founder of a startup — I’m in my own little bubble most of the time. I just don’t have time to follow news or current events very closely. (Plus I got a 2 year old, man— he’s way more fun and engaging than a newsfeed full of depressing news!) Also, I think that in order to articulate and share solutions to world issues, one should be well informed. I’m not.

b) I’m one guy with very limited influence (influence with my 2 year old that is, let alone in the whole world, politics &… stuff). It’s doubtful that anything noticeable or meaningful will happen if I share my political beliefs, or react to events happening on the other side of the world, from the comfort of my living room. Especially if I only share my thoughts on Facebook with people I already know (many of whom may feel the same way anyway).

c) I like to think I’m a doer, more so than a talker. I can’t stand it when people complain, but then do nothing to actually try to change a situation. I’d much rather do something than only talk about it. But in the political, or world issues domains, I struggle to think what I could actually DO, as one person, to help make any positive changes in the world.

So for these reasons I usually end up saying and doing nothing.

Saying or Doing Nothing Achieves Nothing

Even though my day-to-day life hasn’t really been affected by the events taking place in the world lately (yet), I’ve come to realize that not saying or doing anything doesn’t achieve anything either. And I don’t want to put my head in the sand, until things do start to affect me personally, before doing saying or doing something.

Everyone else seems to be voicing their opinions online, why not me too? And anyway — no matter how inarticulate I sound, totally lacking in background knowledge, or if I present some really half-baked (and unlikely to work) ideas — I can’t do much worse than the current leader of the free world, right?!

So here are some thoughts, on the general state of play in the world right now, and a potential way I believe it could get better.

Alarm & Outrage

Despite being in my father/founder bubble, the news is pretty hard to miss these days. Like many people, I’m alarmed by some recent events—a renewed rise in discrimination and hate, neo-Nazis, terrorist attacks, backwards policies — to name just a few.

In response to recent happenings, there’s been an unprecedented wave of collective outrage online. Fair enough too—there’s some really disturbing stuff happening. I can’t open any news website, Facebook, Twitter, or Medium, without seeing multiple politically charged posts, links to articles despairing at events which have occurred, shocking videos (that autoplay), and hundreds of angry comments below them all. It didn’t use to be like this (at least it wasn’t so prevalent in my daily internet habit before).

It seems like millions of people around the world are angry, outraged, worried and sad. (Sad!) I think a lot of this outrage boils down to disbelief — ‘How can these things be happening in 2017?’ ‘Weren’t we past all this?’ Guess not.

Widening Divisions

I won’t go into details of actual events that have taken place recently — I’m gonna assume you know (and probably more than me).

From these events, and the reactions to them, it’s widely acknowledged that there are deep divisions in society right now. Left v right, rich v poor, city v country, well educated v not, (some) white people v non-white, Trump (& his supporters) v the rest (& the media).

I’ve read enough about history to know that divisions in society are nothing new. But it’s really in your face right now. Fueled by (very questionable) world leaders, controversial policies, and biased / sensationalized / fake news, these divisions seem to be growing ever wider.

Going Backwards

It feels like I only go backwards baby
Every part of me says “go ahead”.
I got my hopes up again, oh no… not again.
Feels like we only go backwards darling.
Tame Impala, Feels Like We Only Go Backwards

After decades of great leaps forward globally in terms of quality of life, equality, less war and violence, technology that’s improved lives, and seemingly brought us much closer together, it feels like lately we are going backwards, back to dark and divided days of the past.

When people get angry enough about something their anger manifests itself in the real world. That seems to have started happening more recently, in developed countries, and it’s getting ugly. You can’t really imagine any meaningful dialogue happening between some of the sides anymore.

This is a worrying trend — masses of people getting more and more outraged, picking their sides, and writing off anyone who has a different point of view — not really a positive way forward for society.

In A Bubble / How Many Trump Supporters Do You Know (Personally)?

This has been well documented by others by now — but my experience of it. I was in New York when Trump was elected. I remember early the next morning, walking to the Techstars office in Chelsea, and seeing how depressed everyone looked. It looked like someone they all knew well had died. (In hindsight, maybe they foresaw the death of their country as they knew it, which has arguably started to happen since).

I can’t imagine that many of those people, that I saw on the streets of Chelsea that morning, voted for Trump. I can’t imagine any (of the many) people I met during Techstars voted for Trump (in fact many were vocally against everything he stood for). I’ve never seen anyone I know on Facebook, or follow on Twitter (100s of them live in the US), come out in support of anything Trump has said or done. From talking to friends and family, they all have a similar experience. Yet here we are. How can that be?

Because of these widening divisions. And, I would argue whether we know it or not, it’s because most people are in their own little bubble — just like me.

Most People Aren’t That Extreme

Through news, and social media, we are mostly being shown extreme events and the most extreme elements of society (it gets more clicks). You’d be forgiven for thinking there is little hope for human kind the way things are going.

But I believe that the vast majority of people around the world are not at all extreme, and in fact share lots in common. People come from a myriad of backgrounds, yet everyone ultimately is striving for similar things in life. Being discriminatory or hateful doesn’t come naturally to most of us.

It starts to get worrying, in my view, when we lose sight of that. Poor leadership and fake news is not helping of course. But further, when we don’t personally come into contact with anyone who is different than us, the problems, and divisions, get exacerbated. We are judging from what we see and hear online, not from first-hand experience. Over-reacting to events, and painting everyone with the same brush, does not help either in my view.

You can be angry and share your outrage — of course you should. But writing and sharing an article that blames every person who voted for Trump for what happened in Charlottesville—does that help? Does it move us positively towards a better reality? Or does it cause people to get defensive, to pick and stick to their side, and only serve to widen divisions?

Facebook — ‘Connecting The World?’ Or Fanning Flames of Division (& Keeping You In Your Bubble)?

Facebook has come under criticism for showing content that reinforces individuals’ pre-existing beliefs, and allowing for the viral spread of political propaganda and ‘fake news’. Some even claim that Facebook is responsible for Trump’s election victory.

Facebook is a network of your ‘friends’—people you already know and have most likely met before: many are from the same place as you, probably with a similar upbringing, went to the same schools, work for similar companies, hold a similar place in society, with similar interests and likes to you. It therefore makes sense that most of your friends on Facebook likely share similar values, have had similar life experiences and therefore probably share similar political beliefs.

How often do you see a political opinion shared from a friend on Facebook that is the polar opposite of yours? — almost never in my experience. Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes content it knows you, and your very similar friends, will like and engage with more (so you spend more time on Facebook, and they make more in advertising dollars). This might explain why you mostly only see friends’ opinions that you agree with.

Yet from reading news that the same people share, you know there are MANY people out there who think and feel totally differently than you. People who are from different places than you, who grew up in very different circumstances, have different jobs and have had very different, and possibly less fortunate, life experiences than you.

You just hardly never come in to contact with these people directly on Facebook. In this way I believe Facebook helps create, and keep you inside, your own little bubble — not getting a broad perspective on the world by just not hearing from a diverse group of people.

A Way Forward — Real Life Connection

My proposed solution to help shrink the growing divisions, and get us out of our bubbles, is simple: Spend some time with people who are different than you, in real life.

We need to interact with people who are different, and have different views to us, in order to have a reasonable and rational discussion, and to move forward as a society. The simple act of coming together with someone different than you would be a step towards breaking down barriers and overcoming prejudices. I believe it would help to ‘pop’ the bubbles many of us are in.

Why does it have to be in real life? Because we’re human and that’s how we communicate best. Despite incredible advances in technology, and our always connected online communication channels, face-to-face is still the unrivalled way people connect with other people. Anything that’s really important in our society — whether it be an important political agreement, a business deal, or a big life (or love) decision, is still done in person, in real life.

Words, images, and edited videos online often get lost in translation. Ever sent a text message that was misinterpreted? It’s very easy to misconstrue something you see online or to really understand the people behind a situation. Especially when the news you read may not even be based in truth. It’s harder to misconstrue things when people are in front of you.

Nice Idea in Theory, But How?

I’m not proposing just spotting someone obviously different randomly on the street and trying to strike up an awkward conversation.

Instead I propose that we connect (with the vast majority of more reasonable people in societies around the world) over a shared activities and experiences.

Despite our many differences I strongly believe we can always find things that connect us — some things truly transcend race, religion, background, education, occupation, income, political beliefs, gender and sexual orientation.

Four such things that spring to mind are food, drink, music and sport. People with completely different backgrounds and political views can share the same favorite sports team, be a big fan of the same music, or find the same food delicious. Activities and events involving these four things are a way that people could conceivably connect with others who are different than them, e.g.:

  • Watch a sports match, with someone who loves your team as much as you, but is different to you in almost every other way.
  • Go to a dinner party with a diverse group of people you’ve never met beofre.
  • Go and watch your favorite band or DJ with them with some other super fans.
  • Just grab some drink and have a chat.

Get to know them over a shared activity or experience you both enjoy. I think you’ll find that once you are doing something you both enjoy, it won’t be awkward, and you can open up and discuss those differences. You might start to understand how they came to be and have a different world view than you. You might develop some empathy for them and their situation.

Like in this…

You see two very different people coming together and finding understanding (by sharing a conversation over a beer) and afterwards some of them even want to stay in touch. Sure, it’s an ad from one of the biggest beer companies in the world, designed to sell more beer. Still, in an article I read by the advertising agency who made it, they assured that the people in it, and their reactions, are real. And the sentiment of the ad is good.

It Can Work, I’ve Seen It Happen

I’ve witnessed many times first hand the broadening of understanding, and special personal connections, which occur when a diverse set of people come together. With my app Party with a Local people, from all over the world from walks of life, connect and come together in real life over shared activities and experiences. Nightlife, music and drinks in this case.

People are there to have a good time, to meet new people, broaden their perspective and share experiences. If you’re open to new things, and not a complete douche bag, it doesn’t matter where you came from, what school you went to, what you do for work, which god you believe in— you are welcome. Politics and world issues do come up in conversation too, after a few drinks and when people feel comfortable with each other, that goes naturally. It’s just not the reason why you met up. Which is kind of the point — you met up for something that transcends this.
Get a drink, have a good time now
Welcome to paradise, paradise, paradise
The Avalachnes, Since I Left You

Through Party with a Local, I’ve witnessed people from different countries, continents, backgrounds, religions, sexual orientations, some with high powered jobs, others who can’t afford a place to stay that night — forge strong friendships, then hang with other new people via the app, go traveling together, organize parties, move into a share house together. It’s pretty cool to see.

Connecting people for nightlife isn’t my end game. People connecting over shared experiences is the point. And I believe it can also work for food, drinks and sports (playing and watching) too.

This is the type world I want to see, and through the technology my team and I are already building, I hope can help create. That to me feels like something I can actually DO to make positive changes in the world. Even if I end up failing ultimately, it’s something worth striving for, right?

If you liked this post, give it a 👏! You can also find me on Twitter. And if you’re curious about how this sort of connect-in-person-over-shared activities-and-experiences future could work, try Party with a Local.

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