Resisting Polarization and Encouraging Compassion

Double rainbow and seagulls over Niagara Falls, with onlookers

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.

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Consume Less, Produce More: On Priorities, Focus, and Using My Brain Intentionally

A square painting of a landscape with a body of water in the foreground and mountains in the background.
Boone Lake in Winter, 2015. Private Collection.

At the beginning of 2016, in addition to making a couple of specific resolutions, I set an intention for the year: Consume Less, Produce More. I wasn’t talking about shopping habits or solid waste, but creative output. I had come to realize that I was spending 30-45 minutes checking Facebook every morning, indiscriminately reading content that others had posted and shared. I was watching Hulu and Netflix while cooking and doing chores, and reading articles online before bed. My focus was being pulled and directed by people other than me. My attention span was shorter than I would have liked, and my once robust flow of ideas seemed to have slowed to a trickle. I reminisced about how much mental energy I’d had ten years before. I decided it was time to take back control of my brain and my time.

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What I’ve Learned from Being Neutral

Side view of the author gazing to her left on a beach with mountains and houses in the background
Photo by Emilios.

The idea for today’s post came from Sarah F. Thanks for the suggestion, Sarah!

Unlike most of my fellow citizens, I had to sit out the recent election cycle. I voted, but I did not display a yard sign, put a bumper sticker on my car, contribute to a campaign, or like any candidate’s Facebook page. As a federal judicial employee, I’m prohibited from engaging in any political activity at any level. I’m not permitted to campaign on anyone’s behalf, nor am I allowed to publicly endorse any candidate. I cannot like a partisan post on social media, or attend rallies, and in most cases, I can’t participate in issue advocacy. At least for as long as I serve in my current role, you will not see any politically focused posts on this website.

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