Building Social Bridges and Healing a Divided World

A salon discussing pathways to overcome division.

What are some ways to deal with misinformation and filter bubbles? Is this phenomenon particular to our heavily politicized present? When ideologies differ, how can we find common ground? How does technology play into these dynamics?

Let’s talk about who’s creating social bridges, strategies for moving forward without sacrificing our well-being, staying centered and secure in unstable environments, and more… I would like to share my personal experiences and learn from yours.


If you are hungry for more, or not able to attend, check out Vidhika’s salon later in the day: I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends.


If you have any difficulty participating due to financial reasons, send me a message and I’ll buy your ticket.


Image attribution

White bridge surrounded by trees by Wai Siew

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Summary

This bubbly discussion incorporated many perspectives and was mostly self-directed by the group—I planned next to nothing; the participants were very open, sensitive, vulnerable, and generous.

Below are some of my notes. I’ve written this quickly out of excitement to share what we created, so I may have misunderstood, misquoted, misattributed… If there’s anything that should or could be different, please reach out.

Alessandro

[We are all bridge builders.]

[The first step to hatred is dehumanization.]

[We need to stay close because we’re made of many layers—the first layer is not the only one.]

[Children are a universal role model. In Brazil it’s common for them to say at the playground “Hi, would you like to be my friend?” even before asking their names. Hard to imagine adults approaching a stranger saying “Hey, would you like to talk?”. Creating connections is the core of being human—it’s so natural for children.]

Haider

[Dangerous views doesn’t imply a bad person.]

“We’re on the same boat*” (Vehicle may vary)

[Distancing yourself to avoid friction inhibits the possibility of deepening the relationship.]

[Both religious and secular outlooks shares the layer of ‘trying to understand the truth’.]

Jeeva

[Prefer shared language over common ground.]

[Connect first and help them grow later; don’t focus on fixing them.]

[The farther away something is, the more abstract and ‘over there’ it is.]

[Dehumanization is not a binary: it starts with inconspicuous, crude language.]

Jessica

[Communities were originally formed around mutual need, people taking care of each other, and a shared sense of well-being. Treat others as if we are interdependent in a healthy way.]

[People need to show up in a community with the mindset of ‘How do I give?’. If not, nobody’s needs are fulfilled. Make the first giving move.]

[To take care, you need to know someone well, and it’s hard to know someone without having fondness and extending love.]

[The promise of the Internet was ‘finding your people’. With access to a larger pool of people to meet your needs, one relies less on the local community. Need, vulnerability, and loneliness are technologies that make us reach out. Tech allows us to hide vulnerability that we need a certain type of connection.]

[Forcing people to agree is counterproductive, as people get defensive when they feel someone trying to change them.]

[Divided people may share smaller beliefs. People with similar conclusions may have surprisingly different values. A world where everyone agrees has no room for evolution. Unpack the belief into values and decisions to find common ground.]

Lyn

[Everything needs to level up in consciousness so that we can talk about the big meta issues of our time.]

[How can we re-citizen the world?]

[Inner work precedes interrelational work.]

[Instead of agreement, focus on the next step.]

[Working on oneself does not mean that one will be selfish.]

Omar

[Let’s lock ourselves together and go on a road trip. As friends, we can use this kind of constraint to help break down what divides us.]

A lot of times we’re not making progress because we’re arguing about how to solve something, but it goes nowhere because we’re not on the same page on what the goals or ideal scenario is. It’s a lot easier to start there to find common ground, like agreeing on what a just society looks like before talking about what policies help us get there.

Rosano

[It’s important to consider how an environment that provokes outrage leads us to be affected by charged words and focusing on someone’s ‘first layer’.]

[Naming the thing can lead us to try the opposite. When there’s distance, try proximity. If dehumanize, re-humanize.]

[We can build trust through proximity and continuity. If we avoid friction and only talk when there’s a disagreement, it’s harder to converse.]

[Trust is less about ‘correctness’ and more about ‘this person is here for me’.]

Tristan

[The only thing you can truly expect is that they will change.]

[In divisive situations, making the choice to build a bridge is the hardest part.]

[Secular people do have faith (in the conversation, in the day getting better, in the world doing well, in human potential), so it’s not a big step to jump to spiritual.]

[The informal culture of calling a stranger brother, sister, cousin, friend implies we are already family/friends, and this is true genetically.]

[Even with a dangerous viewpoint, work backwards from “Hey, cousin.”]

[Presence matters more than physical proximity; two people in a closet can be tuned out and ‘not there’.]

Resources


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