horizontescuriosos asked a question:
Hi, I just had one question about your post referencing how people assume their experience is the only valid experience. Do you have any idea why people do this? It seems pretty obvious to me that not everyone would have the same experiences, but apparently people don’t always think with that logic.
Hey dear friend, I believe you’re referring to this post, which says:
“It doesn’t happen to me, therefore it never happens” is possibly the most insane, myopic, deranged fallacy that’s impeding our progress.
One of my favorite things about my Psychology major was learning all the ways that the brain can deceive itself. Things like FAE, TMT, intrinsic justification, hindsight bias, Asch conformity, the Stanley Milgram experiments, suppression rebound, and cognitive dissonance are all the loopy tricky ways that we can easily be fooled without knowing we’re fooled.
So at least a dozen times a week, I’ll see some online comment that says, “That’s never happened to me!” — which follows that it somehow never happens at all. I suppose the closest psychological phenomenon to that would be anecdotal evidence, in which a person’s own life experience tends to (wrongly) inform the totality of all human experience. It lacks empathy and imagination, because of course, we’re all wired to take the quickest shortcut by way of heuristics in order to form a schema — which means, we take the path of least resistance to form an opinion.
Our brains always want to use the least amount of cognitive faculties to assess what’s around us, which means: yes, we’re lazy, and without intentionality, we drift towards complacency and black-and-white conclusions.
Not to sound like an alarmist, but I’m afraid that our internet culture and quick-click social media has contributed to such knee-jerk judgments. No one takes time to process all the nuances of a situation anymore. Just think: these days, within five minutes of most major tragedies, there are already think-pieces posted on Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter but no time to naturally process our grief.
We are not an emotionally healthy world anymore. I say this as a person who loves social media and all the good it can bring, but when it comes to thoughtfulness and reflection, we’ve mostly gone backwards. The only way back to empathy, it would seem, is for us to exercise radio silence and to listen with total intent.
Here’s what I’d advise. I would set up some ground rules when it comes to expressing opinions online or face-to-face. Feel free to dismiss or modify any of these.
1) Be a student first, not a critic.
2) Know the whole story, hear the whole story.
3) Give the same benefit of the doubt that you would want for yourself.
4) Wait 12-24 hours to reply to an email or message. (This has never, ever failed me. Unless it’s an emergency: the longer I wait, the better.) Don’t write an email that you wouldn’t want to see on a wall down the street.
5) Give an online post at least 30 minutes before posting it. While some initial reactions are the best ones, they’re always the exception (see #8).
6) Don’t get sucked into comment wars. On that note, YouTube is one of the worst cesspools in the world. It’s almost always better to keep scrolling; we’re not obligated to respond to everything.
7) Rehearse these words and use them often: “I was wrong. I’m sorry. You’re right.” Saying “I’m sorry, but—” is not an apology.
8) Our first response is almost always the worst one, because it’s often self-righteous contempt. The real war is always going to be choosing between contempt and compassion. While there are certainly some things that require our outrage and indignation, the bottom line must be compassion if we want any hope of change.
9) Carve about 6, 10, or 24 hours per week without an internet connection. I’m telling you: it’s ridiculously liberating and awesome.
10) If you can help it, try face-to-face communication. If you can’t, then maybe it was never meant to be. We can let that bitterness float into digital space, into the ether, down into the graveyard where it belongs.