Through my purchase and search history, businesses can recommend what to buy and activities I may be interested in doing. Similarly, social networking sites can recommend groups or people I may want to follow, connect, or friend. But at what cost?
It is human nature to seek out people with similar thoughts, as it often leads to quickly forming mutual understanding and common purpose. For example, those seeking religious freedom for the Church of England embarked on a dangerous journey across the Atlantic and tech-savvy professionals came together to make their idea the next Internet superstar during the DotCom boom. Today, rather than uproot my life to select what I learn, do, and know, I can click a button.
The ease of following likeminded people can create a bubble culture, where differences are pushed aside or to an extreme, devalued. Self-selection has potential to polarize a work team, a community, and even a nation by limiting constructive debate. American poet Audre Lorde said it quite eloquently: “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
What can one person do to stop the self-selection cycle? It could start by simply listening to a different type of music or attending a new Meetup. Life is not a multiple-choice test. There may be more than one answer, so seek out real data and real facts, and then engage in debate. If you find yourself surrounded by people who think, look, and act the same, it may be time to step out of your comfort zone. You may be happy you did.
How do you embrace differences instead of clicking the other way?