Are we entering an era that heralds ‘The End of Reflection’, as this NY Times article suggests?
“Mr. [Nicholas] Carr observed that, for decades, Rodin’s 1902 sculpture “The Thinker” epitomized the highest form of contemplation: a figure with an imposing physique staring abstractly downward, hunched over to block out distraction, frozen because it’s a statue, of course, but also because deep thinkers need time and don’t fidget. It’s hard to imagine a postmodern update called “The Tweeter” being quite so inspirational.” Teddy Wayne, NYT
Is reflection solely the realm of sitting and thinking on one’s own? Or is it the ebb and flow of conversations and making meaning through discourse? If it is the latter, then Twitter can be one place where we can make sense of our complex world by engaging with others. Time for silent reflection is undoubtedly beneficial, but can it enable us to understand other opinions and new ideas, or will it lead to narrow egocentric thinking instead?
B.J May shared ‘How 26 Tweets Broke My Filter Bubble’, which enabled him to see the world beyond a workplace that he described as, “All men, all heterosexual, all white”. He decided to follow Marco Rogers’ advice to use “Twitter as a way to understand viewpoints that diverge from your own”. At the end of this experiment, which turned into a permanent practice, May concluded that
“Every one of my opinions on the issues at hand had been challenged, and most had shifted or matured in some way. More importantly, however, was this: The exercise had taught me how to approach a contrary opinion with patience and respect, with curiosity and an intent to learn, with kindness and humanity.” B.J. May
Would B.J. May have been able to learn as much through solitary reflection? His reflection was directly linked to his engagement with others, often fully so. It hurt to learn. He learned socially, as we have for millennia. We need time for reflection, but even more so, we need experiences to reflect upon. This makes our learning personal: felt in our gut. Real learning is not abstract.