Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Birds of a Feather

When Fred Kaplan spoke here a few weeks ago he mentioned that it's now possible for people to get "news" and never encounter an opinion that differs from their own. He was using it as an example of why we are so fragmented politically these days.

I've been thinking about that concept a great deal since then - not necessarily with regard to politics, but in general.

People who study demographics insist there's a tremendous similarity of people who live in particular zip codes. I can't argue with their research, but it's hard to accept that we're this easily figured out. However, if you compare your neighborhood with another one in your town that's starkly different, you'll probably find you're more like your next door neighbor than someone in the other neighborhood.

Why do we seek people who are like us? The proverbial "Birds of a Feather, Flock Together," would seem to be true. But, why?

Are we only comfortable with people who are like us? I would quickly jump in and argue that I know people from many walks of life, who do blue collar jobs and white collar jobs and inbetween jobs. I would point out that I have friends ranging from age 17 to 93. But, when you get right down to it, the people I spend most of my free time with are more similar than different as far as their world outlook.

Was that a conscious choice? Certainly not. Do I even want it that way in particular? No. Do I know how to address it? No.

Of course, it's very easy to point to age and job as divisive factors when, in reality, they have little to do with who we really are. What we think about, the dreams we have and the way we live life is not determined soley by those things.

At various times I have reached out to someone with a very different approach to life, and it has never resulted in a long term friendship. We can certainly be friendly, but we never get beyond that.

Maybe this, in a nutshell, is why it has been difficult for me to develop lots of deep friendships. I grew up in one kind of world, and live in another, and am not fully at ease in either.

It always seems to come back to how we, ourselves, process the world.