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Where We Think We Are vs Where We Actually Are

I want to propose something. 

Something I don’t have a lot of data on, but something that I’ve noticed. 

We’re not as divided as a nation as we think we are. 

Or more precisely - we’re not as divided as we are TOLD we are. 

Let me use an example of myself and a group of friends, who jokingly refer to ourselves as the Sewing Circle.

We cover the political spectrum in our beliefs - from Democrat to Republican to Libertarian to Independent. In the 7+ years that we have been meeting we’ve debated, yelled, cussed and hugged things out over disagreements ranging from alcohol selection to business models to presidential candidates to pacifism to separate from church and state.

Recently the obviously charged topics of racism, protests, and policing has come up. In our WhatsApp thread things got heated, and we were all anxious to see what would happen as we got together in person Tuesday night. One member who wasn’t going to be present even reminded us earlier in the day that we all love each other no matter what happens. 

And here’s what did happen: we found a shocking amount of common ground. We found out that as we defined and explained politically charged terms, we were more sympathetic to and understanding of the opposing side’s stance. We found out that specific nuances in how we communicate things helps pave the way for better conversation and better [proposed] policies. 

And here’s what I also realized: this was impossible to accomplish on WhatsApp.
 
Or Facebook. Or Twitter or Instagram or Reddit or text messaging or any other digital means of communication that we so massively rely on. 

Nuance can’t exist in these mediums for a host of reasons, chief of which is because the medium of text and image doesn’t allow for it. Most of us aren’t really great writers, and so we can’t communicate finer points. We rush into broad classifications, ideas, terms and narratives because it’s more efficient to do it that way. The algorithms on these platforms are designed to show us more of what we engage with most, creating echo chambers for some and shouting matches for others. 

Those who express nuanced, balanced views don’t show up in timelines and don’t end up trending. 

Fear sells.
Greed sells.
And rage sells. 

Coupled with a two-tone narrative reporting  - that just happens to fall along dominant political party lines - by the media (literally documented here), it’s easy to believe that everyone is shouting at each other. And some people definitely are. But not the majority. 

My thoughts on this are mixed. First, I’m super grateful in the realization we’re not as divided as it seems - hopeful even for what it means moving forward. But second, I don’t know how the majority of people move discussions online to discussion in person. 

For whatever it’s worth, I’m done with social media. I ghosted Facebook and Instagram a few years back, but only this week took at least a temporary leave of absence from Twitter. (You can read more reasons behind that here.) I’m going to channel more of my efforts into in-person conversations and experimenting with another outlet that I might announce later on. 

And here’s my challenge to you: find one of your friends who you disagree with over recent events - even better if you’ve argued online about it. Get together in person and talk it out. Ask each other to define with precision what each term means that gets tossed around, and ask for clarity on publicly perceived policies. 

And then don’t be surprised to discover just how much common ground may already exist between you both that you didn’t realize before. 

Interesting Resources

Quote
F. Scott Fitzgerald 
 “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

  4 min read | A Wealth of Common Sense
I'm always a sucker for a good chart, and Ben Carlson pulled out a few of them in this piece showing some crazy dips (and recoveries) that have taken place the past few months - from parts of the stock market to mortgage rates to unemployment. My favorite though, is the one below on oil prices. Crazy. 
20 min read | Research Affiliates
Pretty educational article here on how value, quality, and small-cap investing strategies have performed historically coming out of bear markets. However, what I found especially insightful was the overlay and mini explanation of the market and recessions over the past half century. There have been seven recessions since 1963, with a pronounced bear market occurring near or within six of them. The article does a succinct job explaining what each of the recessions entailed. Great educational read if you have the time. 
 
No Accident
10 min read | Epsilon Theory
I hyperlinked to this in my main text about the two-tone narrative being played out in the media, but wanted to call attention to it again. This is a super fascinating read, and uses a linguistic study at how - with precision - the media has displayed the events since George Floyd's death on Memorial Day. The study shows how the reporting had/has three separate phases, marked by increased usages of certain terms. And the reporting just happens to fall among political lines. I'll end by directly quoting from a section towards the conclusion of the piece:

"Yet it is equally important... to recognize that there are social and personal implications of two-party dominance and its influence on the bi-modality of political narratives. Even if you believe that one of those narratives is a bit more right than the other. Especially if you believe that. These narratives channel your opinions into archetypes that don’t represent you. These narratives channel your grief into archetypes that don’t represent you. These narratives channel your anger into archetypes that don’t represent you. These narratives channel your humanity into archetypes that don’t represent you."

So again my challenge from above: find the common ground that exists and don't be forced into a two-tone archetype. 
I oftentimes will write these Fident Fridays with what I refer to "off-the-balance sheet" type topics, and find a way to tie in a finance related theme. I didn't do that this week, because I feel this is really important. 

Also, I appreciate the many of you who responded last week asking if I was okay, as it seemed my mood must have been really off character. I appreciated that a lot, and am grateful - as always - for your readership and the few minutes a week I get to spend in your inbox. 

Gratefully,
Jeremy


P.S. - Fident is closing down to new clients temporarily until August or September this year. So while I so very much appreciate the referrals, I want to set clear expectations on time frames! 
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