I have concluded that colliding world views are kind of like going to the beach.
See, we all need sunlight. Vitamin D and all that. But we also can’t handle too much of that beautiful, healthy UV light, because our skin will get red and then start to peel and we’ll feel achy and unhealthy for days on end. So we’ve all learned to moderate our sunlight intake. We sit in the shade, lie in the sun, or use sunscreen as our current situation demands.
Venturing into the realms of someone else’s world view is like that. There’s an intellectual pallor that accompanies those who never, ever think beyond the box of their own perceptions. That’s not healthy. We all need to be pushed and challenged and re-evaluate our foundational assumptions from time to time. But we’re all also susceptible to ideological sunburn. And so we somewhat instinctively moderate our exposure. In past decades, that has meant selecting different books to read or choosing whether to pursue an idea or change the topic in real-world conversations.
Enter the internet. MEGA-HIGH-VOLTAGE UV EXPOSURE. All those filters we’ve been using subconsciously for years don’t really apply here. We have to build new ones. And so we find ourselves muting friends on facebook even though we still really like them, or retreating from the internet for days on end. And if you’re like me, you sometimes feel guilty about that. Because somehow I think I ought to be tougher, that I shouldn’t shy away from people who see things differently than I do. That I shouldn’t shut myself off from things that jar and jangle and feel like a slap of cold water in the face – because if those things hurt me so much, then it probably means there’s an important lesson for me to learn there. Sunlight is healthy. Why would I want to lock myself away in the dark?
Today I realized I should probably stop feeling guilty. My soul craves exposure to differing ideologies — it’s one of the reasons I love science fiction so much. But my soul also needs that exposure to stay within a range of healthy intensities. I wouldn’t expect my body to handle a full afternoon spent in unfiltered Nevada sunlight, or to swallow down an entire plate full of table salt. So I probably shouldn’t expect myself to interact for months on end with an unmoderated internet without taking a bit of damage. I can choose to accept that damage, or choose to retreat from it, but I shouldn’t require myself to be superwoman.
I feel like this is the part of the post where I’m supposed to say something very profound and forward-thinking. But I don’t have any of that today. I’ve just got a warm little feeling that comes from finally understanding why something hurts, and what I can do about it.
cross-posted from nancyfulda.com