Friday, January 5, 2018

Escape from Your Intellectual Bubble

What’s with these so-called intellectual bubbles we’ve heard about this past year, anyway? What does it mean?

Many of us get information and support from others who are basically just like ourselves. Sometimes we do it voluntarily, but often it’s unconscious on our part. There’s even a whole tech sector dedicated to providing you with electronic material “just for you,” tailored to your tastes.

Of course that’s comfortable! You know pretty much what to expect when you interact with these people or read those web posts. But sometimes the intellectual bubbles we’re in encourage us to forget the diversity of the world outside the bubble. When we associate with people like ourselves, speaking the same language and experiencing the same lifestyle, we begin to assume, however unconsciously, that everyone else must be like us, or else be wrong.

That’s the danger of intellectual bubbles: We are shielded from the broader reality, we lose touch with the world’s diversity. By preventing us from understanding how other people think and feel, bubbles build walls and create intolerance.

So take a risk, and escape from your intellectual bubble. Here are three steps you can take to do that.

Get Physical

You can actually physically escape from your bubble. In our ordinary environment, we see the same people, often like ourselves, all the time. Perhaps it’s time to get away. But where can you go?

This doesn’t have to mean international travel. There are probably many places in your own community you have never visited. A restaurant you’ve never eaten at. A business you know nothing about.

Consider calling up a local civic organization or educational institution and asking for someone to give you a tour and tell you about their mission or activities.

Volunteer with a group that serves people you’re not likely to meet in your daily life, perhaps people from a different age group or culture. You could read to grade school kids, or serve meals at an elder daycare.

Experiencing a new culture is a great way to understand more about people. You will never know what you can learn until you try this strategy for physically escaping from your bubble.

Learn Things!

A second escape method is to build new skills. This can be anything now to you, really!

Learn to knit. Try out yoga. Play the saxophone or flute. Find out how to greet people and ask for directions in a new language. Learn to make a simple mobile app. Read a novel in a genre you’ve not sampled before.

Get outside your comfort zone. Whatever you do will get you to employ a different part of your brain. This strategy encourages you to experiment with content and problem-solving tools that are outside your current repertoire.

Make Your Own (Different) Bubble

This third strategy may sound like an odd way to escape a bubble, but do consider creating your own bubble. A new one.

Be sure you have real friends (not Facebook friends) who are very different from yourself. Second Life® is a great way to learn to know people from a wide variety of geographic places and cultures.

In your social media, follow on Twitter (Editor's note: In fact, you don't even have to follow people to read their tweets) and read blogs by people very different from yourself. Watch TED videos for knowledge, inspiration, and challenges to your way of thinking.

This next suggestion may feel more like preparing for a high school debate. Pick a topic you’re familiar with, and get informed about the opposing point of view. Ask someone who disagrees with your position on a topic why they believe as they do, and really listen to their explanation without trying to pick it apart.

Of course these exercises will allow you to better understand other points of view. What this strategy also leads to is the ability to see multiple angles of an argument, and to possibly synthesize new approaches with your original position.

You will naturally feel some discomfort in emerging from your intellectual bubble. I imagine a newly winged butterfly feels somewhat disoriented when coming out of her cocoon.

But think about it this way… The future absolutely won’t be like the present. Being able to escape from your intellectual bubble will make you more effective in your future life. You may actually come to enjoy the challenges of new experiences and changes.

Image source: Bubble Girl Trapped, by dawnydawny on Pixabay

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