When you read that title, I bet you thought about racism, sexism, homophobia or any one of the other envies and bigotries that curse human society.
Sorry to disappoint you, but this post, while touching on all those areas, is far more general.
Let me pose a question. Take a look at this picture and, without reading further, think about what you see.
What did you come up with?
- The literalist might say “a platform at a North London train station with a car park in the background”.
- A petrol head may say “a 2012 1.2 litre Ford Plonko”
- A car thief might say “a promising place to stop off later. Some decent cars there.”
- A Hendonite might say “Home”
- A Marxist might say “a borgeouis display of material wealth in a fascist state where even the means of transport are in the hands of greedy fat cats. Nationalise rail today!”
- A frustrated commuter might say “an empty Thameslink platform? Never seen that before!”
You get the idea. This is a facile example, but the point – that you see the same thing differently depending on your prejudices – is brought home time and again on social media and the blogsphere.
For example, the other day I saw this tweet on my timeline (remember I am @GoonerEll):
These facts may tell the Bad Doctor all he needs to know, but what it tells him remains a mystery. Does it tell him human society is racist (a white woman earns more than a more highly skilled black woman)? Image-obsessed or shallow (a skinny woman earns more than a curvy woman)? Hates America (a Russian woman earns more than an American)? Generally unfair (a person should earn what they deserve through their professional efforts)? Or perhaps, generally fair (a person can make money by working hard and taking advantage of the opportunities life presents, even if other are more naturally talented in their field)?
To me, this tweet is evidence that users of social media have a pathological tendency to over-simplify complex issues and to use a sample size of 2 to confirm their own preconceptions about the world!
I am perhaps labouring the point. But it’s an important point worth labouring.
Like all humans, I make subconscious and conscious assumptions about everything I see and hear and many of these will become obvious as my blog grows. I don’t apologise for that, and I don’t expect that readers will necessarily share them. All I ask is that you have an open mind.