At the end of November 2018 my blog posts dried up.I’ve not published one for over seven weeks – the longest gap for a couple of years. The problem wasn’t that I had nothing to write, rather I was afraid of the reaction to what I’d say.I have five draft posts I’ve struggled to finish because of a fear of being misinterpreted – or a fear they might upset someone.It’s hard to believe it was only five years ago when we had huge hopes for social media– that a genuine counter-culture was disrupting our established organisations. We finally had a decentralized communication platform for knowledge sharing and idea exchange.With hindsight that was overly optimistic.The two seismic events of 2016 – Brexit and the election of Donald Trump – were partly a reaction to that misplaced optimism. Plenty of people felt shut out and left behind from the party.
Fake news – a term no-one really used until a couple of years ago is now seen as one of the biggest threats to democracy. We seem to be getting a bit nastier to each other online – where the lack of eye contact allows us to be particularly rude to people in ways we’d never consider in real life. We’ve arguably got a bit too sensitive , with hurt feelings meaning you can be reported to the Police for upsetting someone .Analysis of social media use shows that we tend to engage most with information that aligns to our existing beliefs and perceptions on the world. With people spending up to two hours a day on social media that’s a significant amount of time spent in a bubble.If you are mostly friends with people on social media who share your views, naturally you are more likely to hear confirmation of your views than dissent. You share your views on Brexit for example, and everyone agrees with you. This reinforces your world view rather than making you question it. When you do hear dissent it seems like an anomaly. You’re clearly on the side of the angels!Last year I made a deliberate effort to spend more time engaging with peopleand content that offered completely opposing views to my own. I only drew the line at anything that was truly hateful.I think I understand other people’s views and experiences better as a result, and I definitely acknowledge that I was more comfortable living in a bubble. It’s unsettling when you’re not so sure you are right. We need to regularly seek out views that are different to our own – and create conditions where people are comfortable expressing dissenter views. We need to debate more and be a lot less sure we are right. There are very few absolutes in the world today. Every organisation needs a truly safe space where beliefs can be challenged and assumptions put to the test. Remember that dissenting for the sake of dissenting is not useful or clever. Don’t be a dick. However, authentic and sincere dissent stimulates thought and improves the quality of ideas.Diversity is important, but we need to embrace a diversity of perspectivestoo. It’s easy to say that but not so easy to do.It means challenging yourself on where you spend your time, and who with. Listening to voices you’d probably prefer not to hear.