It has been a year like no other.
2020, for the vast majority of us, has been one hell of a ride. If I could choose one word to describe it, it would have been a ‘mess.’ From the empty supermarkets to the busy hospitals and the vacant shops, Covid-19 has changed our lives, our world, and our future. Our GDPs have plummeted to a new low. Our politics have reached new extremes of divisions, and our social media use continues to grow. However, something many people have yet to understand is that the pandemic was not the cause of these things. Perhaps it was a cause, but it was never the cause.
The pandemic has escalated the flow of the inevitable. It was a whip that enforced a future to which humanity was not prepared to respond. Of course, the whips hurt us, and at first, we weren’t strong enough to fight back. These whips showed us our wounds, tore them open, and bloodied them up. All we could do is try our best not to let these wounds fester.
One of these wounds is what can be called an ‘information cocoon.’ I expect many people have not yet learned about the gravity of this label, yet it has already become such a significant part of our world.
I’ve used Youtube for quite a while, however, it was only in the past two years that Youtube had suddenly become a big part of my life. The thing about Youtube and the internet is its addictiveness, and that it functions as a vessel for the unlimited specialization of various forms of information and perspectives. Youtube was and continues to be, an omniscient drug. Everything recommended seemed to hook my interest and I found support within communities with similar tastes and ideals. I was prospering and flourishing in these proliferating communities.
I began to spin my cocoon. I like to watch dramas and follow specific actors. There were actors that I admired and actors that I didn’t. I watched every video praising the actors I Iiked to watch. The more I watched, the more I spun, and my mind became more stubborn. I didn’t understand. How could people like the actors I didn’t like? They were engulfed in so much drama, issues, and controversies, whereas my favorites had none. Why couldn’t others simply see that?
Have you ever met someone you felt like you just simply couldn’t communicate with? Somebody whose world just seemed so different from yours? Was it possible to understand or agree with their perspectives? When confronted with the same problem, were your lenses and level of sophistication just so unfathomably different?
This attitude remained with me when I was confronted with a variety of topics. I couldn’t understand it. I wanted to stand on top of the world and shout, ‘that wasn’t what had happened!’
It finally appeared to me as I went through a friend’s Youtube account one day. Although we had always been close, we often clashed over our disparate political opinions. It was as if we lived in two different worlds, although our houses were only a few blocks apart. We came from different backgrounds and perspectives and our families naturally told us dissimilar things. Our differences were encapsulated in our respective Youtube accounts. We would search for different things and connect with distinct communities. Her recommended videos were so unlike those which appeared on my own page. There was so much that I hadn’t seen before: the actors I loved weren’t infallible, and I had in fact been blind to the greatness of other actors. I was so comfortable in my opinions that I never bothered to wander out of my cocoon.
That was one example, one simple piece of my cocoon, and it was one cocoon out of my thousand cocoons. It was one cocoon out of my millions of cocoons. And I am only one out of one billion people.
When everyone else in your world agrees to your beliefs, naturally, we will believe that our opinions are correct. All humans like to believe that they are right and we will always gravitate towards the ideas with which we agree. In the past, we didn’t have access to all the different perspectives and prepositions as we do now, so biased or incorrect information was tougher to spread. However, today, with social media and active online societies, narrower biases find their way to the public’s eyes. With information overload powering on top, our selections are always filled with our partialities and things we want to read. We have failed to realize that only reading what we want to read will divide our world. People with different opinions will never get to hear each other out. We are inside a cocoon that we spun ourselves, and we can’t see anything else.
As we move into the light of 2021, it has to be understood that we are now moving to an era of conspicuous partisanship. When initial prejudices are always supported by differently molded realities and are continuously powered with manipulated evidence and news sourcing, it will stimulate the already vastly polarized world. Moving on, we must maintain constant vigilance when absorbing the deluges of information offered by the internet, so as not to warp deeper into the cocoon of ignorance.
Last, I would like to share a quote that speaks truly of our current circumstances: ‘We are now the commodity. But we were so in love with this gift of this free connectivity, that no one bothered to read the terms and conditions.’ - The Great Hack.
Welcome to 2021, a year in which we all have to learn to fly.
Fly butterfly, fly.