Herd Mentality

As a boy, I used to read the ‘World Book Encyclopedia,’ and especially looked forward to the annual ‘Yearbook’ arriving each January. I know that sounds nerdy; however, I loved learning about people, places and events – and it made me really good at trivia.

The joy of living today is you’re a click away from a wealth of knowledge. Wikipedia, which once had a ‘don’t use it for research’ reputation with high school teachers, is now considered an excellent source… and after all these years it’s the fifth most visited site on the Internet.

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have captured large audiences – and are responsible for forming opinions on politics, religion and other cultural issues. CNN, MSNBC and Fox News have the same impact. Unfortunately, the ease of access to these creates a herd mentality where folks follow like-thinkers, have their own viewpoints reinforced and seldom consider the other side of issues.

Recently I spoke to someone who said the last book he read was five years ago. I asked why, and he said, “I don’t have time.” I asked how he keeps up with things and he named one of the three cable news leaders. When I said, “So how do you know enough about things to form an opinion?” he said: “I already know what I think.”

In order to address some of the challenges before us and to come, we’re going to have to look at things from different perspectives. That involves dialogue and empathy – and not necessarily a change of opinion, just understanding of the options.

One technique for connecting with another’s perspective on a topic is to make the argument for his/her side. That requires research. Might I suggest starting with a visit to the library? It’s that big building downtown with a lot of books… those hardcover things that were prevalent during my childhood.


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