I’m clicking through one of those quizzes people share on Facebook, feeling preemptively smug.
Click. Click. Click. Self-congratulatory back pat.
My results appear on the page and I grimace. Apparently, that self-congratulatory back pat was not earned.
I scored a 35 on the quiz in question: “Do you live in bubble?” And if I hadn’t worked as a teacher (“Have you ever had a job that caused you to be on your feet all day?”) or grown up in rural Minnesota (“Have you ever lived for more than a year in a city with fewer than 50,000 people?”) I would have scored a 14.
Good lord, it is easy to surround ourselves with people who look, act, and think like us. It’s so nice to meet all my college-educated, liberal, feminist friends for coffee and validate the ish out of each other’s opinions and life choices! It’s so comfortable to drive my Prius to J Selby’s and order a $10 Buffalo Soy Curl Wrap with my vegan friends!
But – and I know you know this – we don’t grow by surrounding ourselves with people and ideas that don’t challenge us.We don't expand our lives, brains, or hearts by existing in a vacuum or echo chamber. Click To Tweet
So starting now, I’m trying harder to live in the world, not in my “liberal elite” bubble. If you’d like to join me in exiting your bubble, here are six things I’m doing.
6 ways to not live in a bubble
1. Follow 10 people on social media who are different than you
Are you Agnostic or Atheist? Find some people of faith.
Are you a parent? Follow some happily child-free folks.
Are you cisgender? Follow a few trans people.
Are you liberal or progressive? Find some moderates, libertarians, or conservatives to follow.
Are you hippie who joyfully rejects makeup, hair products, and name brand bags? Yup. I’m going to suggest you find some pretty, polished fashion bloggers and follow them.
You can see where I’m going with this.
2. Try a different way to get to work
What’s life like for the millions of Americans who take public transportation to work everyday? Or the people who sit in rush hour, slowly squeezing onto the freeway at those metered lights?
What about those super humans who ride bikes to work?
When I was a teacher, I was lucky enough to walk to work. I was consistently amazed by how grumpy and stressed my colleagues were when they arrived at work after 45 minutes of rush hour driving.
Then I moved, started commuting, and became about a million times more compassionate.
3. Read books, watch tv shows, and listen to podcasts by and for people who are different than you
I’ve spent the last six months listening to the same three podcasts. Who hosts said podcasts? Liberal white ladies who say and believe exactly the same things I do.
When we listen, read, and watch outside of our bubble not only are we expanding our minds, we’re telling publishers, advertisers, and television networks they’re making sound business decisions. We’re voting with our eyeballs, our clicks, and our viewing habits.
4. Sit with someone new at lunch
What did Donna in Accounting bring for lunch? What did Ted in Marketing do this weekend?
Getting to know different co-workers makes us more empathetic, more patient, and – honestly – it’s probably good for morale and productivity. If I know Donna’s going through a divorce, I can help her manage her workload or take a few things off her plate.
5. Run your usual errands in a different neighborhood
I can go to the Midway Target, the Lake Street Target, or the Edina Target.
I can buy my beloved laser-cut underwear at any Target location, but depending on which store I’m at, I’ll overhear different conversations. I’ll surround myself with different people. I’ll navigate a parking lot filled with cars of different price points. I’ll chat with cashiers of different backgrounds. It’s a tiny difference, but it matters.
Just as importantly, spending our money in different neighborhoods can be incredibly effective at rewriting income disparity. A recent study found “by getting people to change just five of 100 trips, the researchers saw the neighborhoods in their experiments become more economically balanced.”
6. Google ‘arguments for [insert issue here]’ or ‘arguments against [insert issue here]’
Like most people, I’m pretty sure I’m right. Most of the articles I read serve to reinforce the opinions I already hold. It’s reassuring to see my beliefs articulated by people who are smarter than me! It doesn’t, however, do much to expand my horizons or create compassion for people who hold differing opinions.
What if we spent a bit of time searching for intelligent,well-written articles that run completely counter to what we believe?
Giant asterisk: there are some arguments that do, in fact, have a ‘right side.’ There is no real argument for white supremacy. There is no real argument against the science of climate change. So, uh, don’t waste your time on those.
But maybe there are insights we haven’t considered when it comes to international aid, health care policies, or charter schools – or lots of other topics!
We can't develop empathy or create compromise by having our worldview consistently confirmed. Click To Tweet We can become better neighbors, community members, and citizens when we have a slightly better understanding of other perspectives
But I want to hear from you! If you’re honest with yourself, do you live in a bubble? If you don’t, have you made intentional steps to encounter different ideas, people, and mindsets?