I read a report that, on average, white people have a social circle that is 91% white, black people have a social circle that is 83% black, and I will go ahead and assume that most other racial groups have similar percentages.
So, I examined my own circle.
At first glance, it’s quite diverse. I have plenty of Latinos, but I also have a healthy dose of Black and White friend, along with a few Asian and Native friends.
But, on a deeper level, my social circle is very homogenous. Most people I know either grew up where I did or were involved in the same organizations I was involved in during college. That means their points of view differ very little from mine. There are a few friends, (mostly distant cousins and people from back home), that have widely different opinions than me. However, about 90% of my acquaintances would agree with me on most major issues, except perhaps religion.
Last week, I was set on unfriending people on Facebook who posted opinions that irritated me. Luckily, I changed my mind.
Surrounding yourself with people that mirror your own opinions limits your growth. If you don’t have people who whole-heartedly challenge your beliefs and ideas, your ideas and beliefs have a limited perspective.
Although people who have radically polar opposite ideas than mine often annoy me, I should be thanking them: They help you find flaws in your arguments. They point you towards overlooked facts. They make you question assumptions. They ignite your passion for topics and validate your efforts. And, very occasionally, they change your mind.
Interacting with people who don’t agree with you forces you to reinforce your own beliefs with evidence, facts, and anecdotes. They also help you view things from an unfamiliar perspective that can perhaps lend you some empathy.
So, yes, surround yourself with like minded people. But, as a wise friend once said, it’s easy to defend feminism in a room full of feminists.
Embrace your opposers. They are a necessity for mental and intellectual growth, or, at the very least, to know what the other half of the world really thinks.