A Very Binary Culture – 7 Takeaways No. 124

Binary Thinking (Image: 7takeaways.com)

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1. “A complicated world forced into a very binary culture”

Our natural tendency to think in binaries leads to an oversimplified view of the world – Katie DeFiore – (The Daily Collegian)

This is something I’ve said and thought about a lot. We love black-and-white answers, and yet nothing — absolutely nothing — is truly black and white.

… acceptance of and reliance on binary opposites not only creates boundaries between groups of people, it also posits that one group is superior to the other. Not surprisingly, this easily can lead to prejudice, discrimination and oppressive policies and practices toward the less favored group.

The answer? Take the time to think. Realize that reality — all reality — is much more nuanced than the clickbait headline you’re reacting to.

Do this: Look for the nuance everywhere.

2. “We live in big messy toybox”

True Threats And American Cultural Gulfs – Ken White – (The Popehat Report)

I found this an interesting and thought-provoking exploration of free speech, and the First Amendment. It should be obvious that not all speech is considered protected, but the ramifications of over-correcting in either direction are complicated and often harmful.

Wider, more flexible First Amendment exceptions chill speech; narrower, more specific exceptions encourage speech. But threats also chill speech. Threats are more likely to chill and deter the speech of people who have less power.

With so much reference to freedom, and specifically freedom of speech, in today’s media, it’s well worth reflecting on why it’s so very difficult to draw a line.

Do this: Consider what free speech really means to you.

3. “No one cares about your opinion until you show results.”

Eight Uncomfortable Truths About Life That Will Wake You Up – Tim Denning – (Unfiltered by Tim Denning newsletter)

This caught my attention for two reasons.

First, we all want so dearly to share our opinions. SO DEARLY. I know I’m guilty as sin about this (witness … well, this entire publication, I guess). The trick, of course, is to know when it’s appropriate to share, and how, not to mention whether we’re even qualified to have an opinion, as alluded to by the takeaway.

Second, I’m not sure I agree. The world is full of people who’s opinion is considered well out of proportion to their actual accomplishments, while at the same time many of the legitimately wise among us go completely ignored.

Do this: Have opinions, of course, but share them wisely. And take note of whose opinions matter to you (and whether they should).

4. “The trolls are among us”

Be Kind, and Be Happier – Arthur C. Brooks – (The Atlantic)

The title sums up the gist of the article: you’ll be happier by being kind. When people are unkind to you, break the cycle in some way, avoiding the natural reaction to respond to negativity with more negativity.

What caught my eye, though, was this observation:

The United States is in a negative feedback loop of unhappiness and hostile behavior.

Responding with hostility to hostility only makes everyone more hostile. It’s often better to not respond at all.

Do this: Be mindful of your reactions and your responses.

5. “Terror Management Theory”

4 Fascinating Psychological Theories That Explain Your Whole Life – Mark Manson – (Blog)

Terror management is the first of the four theories, and, though the other three are interesting and plausible, it’s probably the one that resonated with me the most.

It’s the fear of death. Or, more completely, how it’s the fear of death that drives us to “create cultural systems of meaning and value that help us feel like we’re part of something greater than ourselves.” I found this point relevant given today’s … well … everything.

When our sense of meaning and purpose is threatened, we become much more rigid in our thinking and behavior. We become less tolerant of differences and more prone to aggression and violence.

Do this: Cultivate tolerance. (And have empathy for everyone’s fear.)

6. “We are fundamentally animals”

It’s Easier Than You Think – Sylvia Boorstein – (ebook)

Coincidentally, following preceding takeaway, I ran into this chapter in Boorstein’s book — “Less Frightened Is Managing Gracefully”.

We are all frightened. So many of those fears are innate, and come from a variety of experiences throughout our lives, but we all have them to varying degrees. They fundamentally shape who we are, and that’s an important insight.

When we appreciate how people have been frightened in their lives, we can be compassionate toward them rather than angry.

Again, anger is so often our go-to reactive response. It’s not always easy, but it need not be.

Do this: Be compassionate.

7. “Selfies aren’t going anywhere”

Selfies are for memories, not just for vanity – Laura Baisas – (Psychology Today)

I’m in the middle of an extremely lengthy process of digitizing my collection of pre-digital photographs, both those of myself and those taken by my parents. A couple of themes have arisen.

As odd as it sounds, it would have been cool had my parents taken more selfies. I would have more memories of them in more places. As it is, I have dozens, if not hundreds, of generic photos of places, with no true personal connection. Only the occasional “I’ll take a photo of you, and then you take a photo of me” set up. (Yes, I know, selfies weren’t a thing then, and were enabled by phones you could hold, point, and shoot all with one hand. That doesn’t keep me from wishing.)

Personal photos have the potential to help people reconnect to their past experiences and build their self-narratives

More than that, they can reconnect across generations, across families, across borders, and across time.

Do this: Be less camera shy.

More links & thoughts

What I’m Reading

In progress:


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