Talking Past Each Other: Intro

Ever since I came back to the United States from abroad and witnessed the most divisive presidential election of my lifetime in 2016, I have noticed myself paying a lot more attention to politics than I used to. I became more “woke” (as the teens say nowadays). It’s certainly not the healthiest habit to pick up (as I find myself constantly aggravated by my news feeds), but I think I’m learning a lot – and an informed citizenry is something this country needs right now.

To free myself from the bias that naturally comes since I’m a “coastal elite” (and work in the tech industry), I made some adjustments to my Facebook usage:

  • I went to Facebook ad preferences and deleted any auto-detected Interests in political parties or traditional media – this hopefully gave the signal that I was open to seeing both liberal and conservative articles in my feed.

    Deleting Facebook ad preferences
    Facebook knows me too well
  • I did not unfriend any of my very few conservative-leaning friends 😉
  • When loading my feed, I always switch to the Most Recent option so the engagement algorithm doesn’t hide content that might turn me off.
    Switching to Most Recent feed on Facebook mobile web
    Why is this option so buried?!

    Switching to Most Recent feed on Facebook desktop browser
    I have to do this every single time
  • I tried to engage with political posts with an inquisitive mindset, as opposed to a reactionary/polemic one

After having extended conversations with other #woke people of various political leanings, I’ve concluded something about the state of discourse in America: With few exceptions, we are all talking past each other as opposed to engaging each other directly and constructively. There is a lot of name-calling (labeling), stereotyping, and assumptions made before people even meet – then, in “debate”, people will usually shoot off their well-ingrained talking points while dodging any critical questions and not attempt to pause and understand viewpoints that differ from their own.

This is a huge problem for any society, but especially so for Americans given the kind of era we live in now. Filter bubbles and fake news affect us all. If we’re not willing to actually talk to each other (versus talking at and past each other), we will never get anywhere on any of the issues that matter and only become more and more divided as a nation – to the point of civil war.

I’d like to do my part to help facilitate more meaningful conversations around issues with a new series of posts I’m calling “Talking Past Each Other” (or TPEO …nevermind, that’s terrible). As divisive topics come up, I’ll attempt to distill the arguments on both sides and present them in a way that hopefully helps clarify the underlying principles behind each stance. This should theoretically show that neither side is ever really “wrong” – rather, that underlying intentions are usually good and differences of opinion usually stem from a value prioritization mismatch. (I.e. some people value equality over religion, while others do the opposite.) From there, perhaps ideas for policy can be crafted that satisfy the needs of all parties.

Why am I doing this? Well, it’s not that I particularly care about the United States – frankly, I was much happier living abroad and far removed from all this mess. 🙂 But as an intellectual and empathetic exercise, I hope that this will serve as a way to understand my own political leanings and diversify my own viewpoints. If I can help people understand what is going on in their own debates with others, that would be good as well.

Got suggestions for topics or alternative media I should follow? Leave me a comment down below – but no fake news sources, please 😛


Also published on Medium.

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