Unfiltered Festivus

12/23/2013 Stephen Colbert 0 Comments

This post is going to be a little bit different. Something has been weighing on my mind a lot throughout the holidays this year.

The very nature of most offline human interaction has been significantly altered since the advent of the internet, specifically in the past five years or so.

We live in a post-Pandora culture, where the internet has allowed us to be surrounded exclusively by things that we like or enjoy.  Our internet radios only play music by or similar to the artists we like, Netflix recommends movies based on our likes and dislikes, and Amazon emails us about products we would like based on our other purchases.  We have the great luxury of being able to control our content consumption in such a way that makes sure we only discover new (or old) content that jives with our tastes.  The advent of social networking has allowed us to do the exact same things with our social life.  We can just hide, block, "defriend," or "unfollow" anyone with whom we don't want to interact or be exposed to online.  Your crazy political friend is getting on your nerves? Just hide their feed.  Sharing pictures from a party you don't want your grandmother to see? Just filter her out when you post.

This all-in-all seems to be a great thing.  We can avoid being exposed to things we dislike, while simultaneously making sure we maximize our exposure to things we do like.  It's like our own little digital utopia where you love everything that happens.

We all like our comfort zones.  I frequently joke with my wife that she needs to remember to switch Netflix to her profile when she watches, because I'd rather get suggestions for Arrow or Justice League than for Behind Mansion Walls, or Deadly Women. Because, you know, that would be the worst thing to ever happen to me.  Having to look past movies I don't like to find something I want to watch.  Like it's 1999 and I have to go to Blockbuster.

Here's the problem: we are losing the ability to learn how to deal with things that we don't agree with.  I witness arguments (of any kind) get more and more intolerant and out of control on Facebook every year.  People are also spending more and more time interacting socially on the internet, where they can choose their company to suit their needs, rather than have to deal with the limited options available in their geographical area.

This is especially apparent during the holidays.  we continue to hear about the supposed "war on Christmas" because people find offense when someone wishes them "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" (or vice versa), because the worst thing that can happen is that someone wishes you find joy in your life on a day other than the day that you want to be joyful?  So what if you don't celebrate Christmas?  That means that you should not find happiness on the 25th of December?  

I have seen articles, or heard radio/TV segments on the topic of "how to deal with family during the holidays" more times this year than I can ever remember in the past.  Not that this is a new problem.  In fact, back to Cain and Abel it is probably the oldest problem, but it's like people are so used to a world where they can turn off, mute, or otherwise avoid anything that brings them anything but comfort, so, when the holidays come around people get anxiety about the idea of spending time around people they can't control.

It's called diversity.  People are different.  They look different, celebrate different days, and have differing opinions.  That's beautiful.  If everyone was exactly the way you want to be all the time, then how would you be able to show love to anyone?  Only being able to show love, share holiday cheer, or even just tolerate people whose existence is uniform to your own seems, to me, like the definition of selfishness.

Besides, it's good for you.  Limiting yourself to only a certain set of experiences limits your own personal growth.  New experiences trigger new neural pathways in the brain, and expose you to unfamiliar information.  Iron sharpens iron and avoiding everything you personally find abrasive is the best way I know of to remain dull yourself.

So get into the Holiday Spirit and enjoy your family, your friends, and the random strangers that are wishing happiness upon you (even if it's not happiness for the day you celebrate).  You can go back to your fine-tuned, comfortable, and cloistered internet existence in January, but take some time to share your love and a cup of cocoa with someone that rubs you the wrong way this year.

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