The Daily Me requires daily reflection

As we move from the political conventions to the November election, I’m being careful not to get too close to my Daily Me.

M.I.T. Media Labs founder Nicholas Negroponte coined the term The Daily Me in a 1995 book to describe how online news would be customizable to each reader’s individual tastes. That accessibility makes The Daily Me appealing. Leaving us to self-select the information we receive can make The Daily Me a bit challenging.

The Daily Me reinforces our beliefs. It convinces us that our point of view is the only one that matters. Gone are the days when we would open a newspaper and browse stories that broadened our perspectives and help us consider the possibilities of other points of view.

The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote about The Daily Me a couple of years ago, citing research that shows more than half of Americans currently live in counties with landslide elections for Republicans or Democrats. In the 1970s, that number was about one third.

Other research showed that when liberals or conservatives discuss issues such as affirmative action or climate change with like-minded people, their views quickly become more extreme than before the discussion, Kristof said.

“For example, some liberals in one study initially worried that action on climate change might hurt the poor, while some conservatives were sympathetic to affirmative action. But after discussing the issue with like-minded people for only 15 minutes, liberals became more liberal and conservatives more conservative.”

Reducing the entrenched perspectives will lead to more effective conversations and a willingness to concede a point or two. That might lead to something that looks like collaboration in the common ground between people who don’t normally agree.

The antidote to The Daily Me is a willingness to read and consider “the other side.” Kristof, who considers himself a liberal, suggests starting with The Wall Street Journal’s opinion pages. Those with a more conservative viewpoint might try The New York Times editorials.

Maybe I’ll take Kristof’s advice and start with WSJ. If all goes well, I might even give Atlas Shrugged another try.

– Jon Ratliff, vice president/account group director

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