It’s comforting to listen to things that you already agree with, but it does nothing to further change. As someone on the left, there’s a reason why your Facebook news feed is covered with left-leaning media. A lot of that is beneficial, makes us feel hopeful and are subjects we’re passionate about. But to block out all opposing viewpoints is harmful. Sitting in a circle agreeing with each other creates false realities for us all as we only hear one side of an argument. The end result of these bubbles is our increasingly divisive and polarizing politics. Nowadays, you can learn how someone feels about 2-3 subjects and then know how they feel about just about everything else. That is terrible. This is due to our polarizing team sports style division. The best thing that we all can do is try to hear each other out. It keeps us connected, reminds us that we don’t know everything and helps humanize people that we disagree with. For all of our sake, escaping our liberal media bubble is critical. Follow the steps below to do it.
1 – Stop un-following friends that disagree with you politically.
Just because someone likes Trump or doesn’t want a minimum wage increase doesn’t mean you should write them off. While there are indeed some people or some conversations that are toxic and should be avoided, most people are actually open to a friendly conversation. You can win a lot of respect in people’s eyes for respectfully advocating for a point. And there’s a lot of common ground to find when you look for it. Un-following them removes all opportunity to debate, learn and grow from someone who thinks differently. Plus, by un-following people because of politics, you won’t see all their cute puppy or kid pics, missing an opportunity to stay connected.
2 – Un-follow half of your liberal news organizations.
We are overwhelmed with liberal content. Not only do we usually spend time with and talk to people who agree with us, but we read the news and listen to podcasts we already agree with. By just un-following half of your news outlets, you’ll stop being inundated with the same thoughts and the same outrage all the time. Most of it is simply duplication since everyone reacts to the same big news. Get rid of Occupy Democrats, US Uncut, The Young Turks, etc. Stick to WaPo, NYTimes and reputable fact-based sources. The same thing can be said for liberal podcasts. Do you really have to listen to 8 different podcasts that all believe and say similar things? Since I un-followed half of my Likes on Facebook and cut down on my podcasts, I found that I am still in the loop for all the content I need and don’t miss a thing.
3 – Follows news organizations or magazines you disagree with.
I know, I know. Why follow something that you disagree with? There’s a few reasons. First, it’s good to know that the opposing viewpoint is popular and people are passionate about it. Maybe that’ll help so many of us from being shocked the next time there’s an election result like in November of 2016.
Second, although we may feel strongly about our positions, that doesn’t meant that there aren’t compelling arguments from the other side. For example, I’m a staunch supporter of raising the minimum wage for many reasons, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some negatives that happen when we raise it. Proponents of it will likely never bring up those negatives, only the people who are against it do. So when a conservative says something like “Raising the minimum wage in a community will raise the price of goods, how will senior citizens living on fixed social security income absorb those costs?” That’s a legitimate factor and we should have an answer, or at least know the argument exists. You’ll rarely hear that question posed by a pro-minimum wage newspaper or organization. It’s important that we know all the pros and cons of a subject and not just that we’re supporting it blindly.
Third, is a simple and strategic point: the empowerment of learning your opponent’s argument. I am a better debater and able to persuade more convincingly the more I’m familiar with my opponent’s full scope of argument. I’m caught off guard much less with hearing new arguments since I know the opposing viewpoint in and out.
For sources to follow, I’ll be honest, it’s slim pickins’. There aren’t too many conservative news or opinion organizations that I’d recommend. Many of them are Fox News clones or worse, with full on anti-liberal hysteria. Decent, reasonable conservative news outlets to follow on Facebook are the Libertarian-leaning Reason Magazine, National Review and the American Conservative. While they are definitely conservative outlets, they use reason and logic to determine their end opinions rather than partisan politics. Some of my best conversations to date have been on pages like that. Give them a try.
4 – Listen to a conservative podcast or two.
Listening to political podcasts is really popular nowadays, and I surely love to do it. But I mix those in with one podcast of choice for a conservative bend: The Ben Shapiro Show. Don’t get me wrong, Ben is a conservative through and through, and a lot of what he says will make you want to cringe. But he will actually call Republicans out on inconsistencies and criticizes Trump quite often despite trying to support Trump. He makes lots of excuses for Trump and is constantly feeding the hysteria into the left being out of control, but he makes a lot of great points and he’s actually honest about his biased opinion instead of presenting it as fact. I would also recommend Sam Harris’ Waking Up Podcast. It’s not conservative technically, but he is a very thoughtful, open-minded liberal who criticizes many things that we on the left hold dear but from a position of self improvement and reflection, not a Fox News style of bashing.
5 – Watch and listen to The Rubin Report on YouTube.
The Rubin Report is a YouTube show hosted by Dave Rubin, formerly of The Young Turks. His whole show is interviews with people from all across the political and religious spectrum discussing all kinds of topics in a civil, respectful manner. He is all about freedom of speech and dialogue. While he can occasionally be sensationalist against the left, he has some really great interviews. They are long form, open discussions to allow for full context, no judgments and no sound bytes. The Rubin Report has exposed me to some of my favorite intellectuals. I believe in his show so much that I give a small monthly contribution to help fund it. I have been on the edge of my seat listening to some of his interviews and feel the people he brings on are reasonable, rational and civil. A few great example interviews to check out with varying ideologies are Sam Harris, Bret Weinstein, Mike Munger, Ben Shapiro, Dan Carlin and Dinesh D’Souza.
6. Read these two books. ‘Strangers In Their Own Land: Anger And Mourning on the American Right’ by Arlie Hochschild, and ‘The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided Over Politics And Religion’ by Jonathan Haidt.
‘Strangers‘ is about a liberal college professor who travels to Louisiana for years to learn about the tea party, their beliefs and reason for hating the government. ‘The Righteous Mind‘ is learning about what conservatives, liberals, religious and non-religious care about and why. It highlights the strengths and weaknesses of each and effectively paints a picture of tribalism and emotions rather than logic and reason. Both books are phenomenal at opening your mind to accepting the fact that most people on opposing sides of an issue aren’t hateful, toxic monsters, but they just care about different things and have different ways to get to their goals. I still do not agree with the conservative mentality, but I understand it much better. I’d recommend these two books to everyone who cares about discourse and understanding other people’s viewpoints.
I have done all of the above for close to 6 months now. It has really helped me empathize with people across the aisle, stay connected all viewpoints, craft my arguments and improve my ideas to defend my positions even better. I think I’ve even been able to get through to a couple of people and influence them because of the open dialogue, and have been influenced myself. It’s uncomfortable at times. It’s really uncomfortable at times. But stepping outside of my comfort zone has been a great opportunity for growth, and I encourage everyone give it a try.
All opinions are my own and not representative of any other organization, company or person other than me. -James
James is resident of Auburn, a member of the Auburn Democrats, the Maine Young Dems, Maine People’s Alliance, and the Communication’s Coordinator of the Androscoggin County Young Dems