A thousand years ago, people seriously debated whether the Earth was round or flat.
A hundred and fifty years ago, people seriously debated whether slaves were human beings or not.
A hundred years ago, people seriously debated whether women should have the right to vote.
These debates sound silly to most of us now, but at the time, they were vital discussions with two clearly opposed points of view that were held in equal esteem by the parties involved.
What debates are we having today that will seem frivolous to future generations?
I’m old enough to remember when you could find a box of crayons containing a color labeled “flesh.” As a Caucasian child, living in a predominantly Caucasian community, I thought nothing of it. Now, I wonder what a child of a different ethnic background might have felt about that innocent wax stick. Wikipedia tells us the color was renamed “peach” in 1962, yet I used one with the outdated label over ten years later. My parents would have considered it perfectly normal to have a “flesh” color within their box to choose from. What once was normal now seems insensitive and even racist to many of us.
How did that change occur? It didn’t happen suddenly, in spite of a decision by Crayola to alter the name one day in 1962. It came about over time because, one by one, people chose to adjust their beliefs about the color of one’s skin and what it meant to them. Not everyone made an adjustment — as we clearly see in the world today — but enough did to slowly create a new normal that children grew up with. That new normal, however, would never have blossomed without the internal examinations of thousands of individuals and their belief systems.
We each have a responsibility to constantly question our beliefs — whatever they may be. Many choose to ignore that responsibility and surround themselves with voices that only confirm what they already think. Social media too often serves as an insulator to the world, rather than the open forum it was intended to be. We block or ignore people and sites that say things contrary to our held opinions, then favorite and like ones that agree with our comfortable world view. This practice shunts our ability to think critically and quiets the voice inside us that questions our reality — to the point where we will do and say things we would have once considered ridiculous.
Pay attention to your actions and behavior while online. Ask yourself why you liked that post, or blocked that site from your feed. Was the source questionable, even though it confirmed something you believe? Did the content make you uncomfortable because it conflicted with something you hold true?
Willingly blinding yourself to the world only serves to hinder your growth as an individual and our society as a whole.
In the end, you are the only one in charge of what you believe.
Alan Tucker is an author of science fiction and fantasy for all ages. You can find his work at AlanTucker.net