When I was driving to psychic house parties in Connecticut this August, I was grateful for Pandora on my Android. All I had to do was list some bands I like and Pandora kept me entertained with sweet tunes.
When I wasn’t driving, I would take the time to hit the thumbs up or thumbs down button on each song. Pandora learns from my likes and dislikes to play only the music I am most likely to enjoy.
That’s a good thing, right?
Maybe not; sometimes we learn to love a song after some repetition. Sometimes it’s a bit of a spiritual journey to make friends with a particular song. If I could just have hit the thumbs down on it, I would never have made the journey or heard the message.
Sometimes we find new meaning in the lyrics of the overplayed songs that bore us. Sometimes we grow into a musical style we didn’t like before. The two bands who have brought me the most joy over the past thirty-five years were both bands I didn’t like at first.
The same thing is true with online friends. Most of us populate our social media accounts with friends who like what we like, and believe what we believe. If someone posts an opinion with which we don’t agree, it’s perfectly acceptable to simply unfriend them. We never have to deal with the fact that someone we know and respect feels differently about something than we do. One glance at our Facebook wall and we feel secure, knowing that we will never be confronted with an opinion different from our own.
The thing is, our opinions are supposed to change and evolve as we get older. It’s called “growth.”
The recent trend is that when we change the way we view a political, spiritual or societal issue, our evolution makes us a “flip-flopper,” or a “hypocrite” rather than a mature person who has consciously changed their way of thinking. When we reach out to compromise with others who have different views, others may see us as weak.
Exposure to people who have different ideas is what keeps us open and thinking. Compromise is what keeps communities functioning.
Our various “like” buttons limit our exposure to anything that might challenge our current opinions or cause us to question ourselves, stretch or grow in any way. We may even wonder if it is actually possible to like and enjoy someone who holds beliefs that are different from our own!
I treasure my friends who are different than I am. I am interested in their opinions, even if they don’t match my own. It concerns me that this suddenly feels like a radical notion.
It’s good to try a food you think you don’t like, or listen to a band you’ve never cared for. It’s good to hear an opinion that differs from your own. It won’t kill you, and it might make you stretch you a little.