Binary thinking and bubble creation


It’s getting worse, I reckon. The world is being polarised. It upsets me when otherwise smart friends fall into the trap of seeing the world in binary terms. Good versus evil. Black versus white.

The problem is the way we access information on the internet. It’s pull rather than push: we choose what to read, watch or listen to. This self-selection process makes it very easy for us to live in a bubble.

In our bubbles, we create a self-consistent world around a narrative that we have selected, and which we reinforce by confirmation bias, marshalling evidence that supports our view and rejected anything contradictory. There are some bubbles that are better than others: for example, I’d rather live in a liberal bubble than a selfish, dogmatic, intolerant one. But bubbles are bubbles, whatever their colour, and they obstruct right thinking.

This bubble of confirmation bias has always been the case, to a degree. Consider religions, cults and political parties. By surrounding ourselves by people who think the same way, we distort our view of the world.

We begin to separate people we meet: are they with us or against us? We find it incredible that anyone rational could think differently. It’s the bubble effect.

The Internet has made the creation of bubbles that much easier, and the skins of these bubbles rather thicker. The result is that we can no longer have any meaningful discourse, and we have an impoverished, simplified view of reality, filtered through very thick and highly tinted lenses.

In the wine world, we see this with natural wine. On the one hand, people suggesting that conventional wines are full of additives, dangerous to our health, and chemical. On the other, people maintain that natural wines are all flawed and feral, and that this movement is just a fad.

We need to grow up. We need to stop seeing the world in binary terms. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of others. Once in a while, it’s good to change our media diet. Rather than be quick to judge the attitudes and beliefs of others, let’s try to understand why others think differently. Had we been subject to their culture, peer group and media diet, might we think differently?

That’s not to say we shouldn’t be politically active or vocal in support of causes of merit. It’s just that we shouldn’t just do this from a binary position. People are rarely all good or all bad. Political parties are rarely all good or all bad. The same is true of religions, and styles of wines. This sounds a trivial thing to say, but being able to accept a world where everything is mixed, and achieving a nuanced understanding of complex issues, takes maturity and wisdom. It’s something we’d do well to acquire.

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