About a year and a half ago, the hashtag #1st7jobs (or #firstsevenjobs) began making its way around Twitter as celebrities and others shared lists of their early work experiences. The idea, I think, was to show that where you begin does not dictate where you end up, and it takes hard work and trial and error to build the career and life you want. While there are certainly critics of that narrative, I found the hashtag to be an interesting exercise, and one worthy of further exploration than Twitter’s character limit would allow.
We humans like to place people into buckets: good and bad, left and right, us and them. This seems to be an age-old tendency, and it isn’t all that surprising that the rise of social media and the proliferation of news and opinion platforms have allowed our divisions to become more entrenched and more apparent. We can choose to read and listen to only those sources that affirm what we already feel and believe, and we can respond to those who disagree while protected by a screen that keeps us from seeing and experiencing their humanity, their emotional reactions. Our quickly typed words can be amplified through shares and retweets, carried far beyond the small circles that might once have heard them.
Many, many people have written about the heightened state of polarization in which we live these days, lamenting how destructive it is and postulating about what led to this environment. It is distressing and disheartening. But it doesn’t have to be this way.