The most dangerous part of social media is this: you don’t have to see, hear, or participate in anything you don’t agree with.

You have total choice. You have millions of podcasts, millions of blogs, billions of web pages. You have the option to subscribe to only the things you agree with, only the points of view that make you happy.

This has the net effect of making your point of view more extreme, and you may not realize it.

The great advantage of a time when there were three television channels was that opposing views HAD to be heard, even if some networks and anchors may have had subtle biases – at the very least, the other viewpoint was heard, if somewhat disparagingly. Today, you don’t have to be exposed to contrary ideas at all.

The only way to combat self-selected extremism is to willingly participate in social media outlets that are NOT in alignment with your point of view. Read news sources that you’re not comfortable or familiar with, like the BBC, Sydney Morning Herald, Jerusalem Post, Al Jazeera, Globe and Mail, Google News, and others. Listen to and subscribe to podcasts that are from differing perspectives. If you’re a liberal Democrat, tune into conservative talk radio from time to time. If you’re a conservative Republican, hit up a few of the liberal talk radio shows.

Turn off the inner voice if you can, or at least ask it to check in after the program was over. If you’re truly gifted as a powerful thinker, see if you can take any argument presented and legitimately see and agree with different sides of it. “If I were a Conservative, this issue would totally make sense because…”

The only way to prevent becoming the sort of extremist that in the past you’d detest is to willfully pull yourself back to the center by considering and integrating opposing viewpoints. If you don’t, soon you’ll find that viewpoints from the fringe that advocate willfully harming other people seem… reasonable. If that’s not who you want to be, only you can drag yourself back to the middle.

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