Today was my first day of my first trip to South by Southwest! What a time to be alive.
I kicked off my day with the keynote speech with Cory Booker. It was a little surprising to see him at SXSW but Joe Biden is coming as well, so I guess SXSW is getting a little political this year. His speech focused on one theme: love.
He claimed that we were all here at SXSW because we were part of a “massive conspiracy of love.” Eh, that might be a little bit of a stretch, although I’d wager to say that the majority of people come to the conference because they are passionate about what they do. It’s no surprise that a ton of tech, film, music, and marketing folks descending on a city like Austin lean a little to the left.
He also focused quite a bit on the difference between tolerance and love, which I thought was an interesting distinction given much of the political discourse in this country. As he explained: “Tolerance builds fences, love tears them down. Tolerance crosses the street when it sees you coming, love embraces you. Tolerance says I don’t need you. Love says you are essential.”
I loved this part of his talk, because it touches upon a subject that is very close to my heart. I love America because we are a place where diversity should be celebrated not just tolerated. Our differences make us stronger as a whole.
Booker also shared his through that Americans share a “civic gospel”. We see common refrains in our documents, our songs, etc. such as “Liberty and Justice for all”. There are universal beliefs, values and ideals that we all hold to be dear to us as a people and a nation.
He did touch upon the challenges of technology in this day in age, and how it can actually serve to disconnect us from each other instead of just connecting us, because we create our own virtual bubbles around our individual lives where we are no longer seeing people who are different than us. This compounds our confirmation bias, and as he put it “Not seeing each other creates a very dangerous reality.”
Technology is an incredible tool, but like any tool it can damage as much as it creates. I definitely see this in my own life. When I see news on my Facebook feed or my Twitter feed, they are usually stories that fit within my own world view as a moderate who skews left. My Facebook feed is a little more diverse because when friends of mine (especially Southern friends) share news articles they don’t always come from the same sources or come to the same conclusions as the news sources that I typically read. In that sense, I also think that technology can be an incredible tool to connect us with those who we don’t disagree with. If we make the assumption that we self-segregate based on politically beliefs, and this conscious or sub-conscious grouping is echoed in geographical patterns, it can be hard for you to find people who disagree with you politically within a realistic physical range. Technology makes distance obsolete. It enables you to get a better understanding of what someone in Oklahoma is thinking about, even if you live in California. Is there a way for us to leverage technology to increase our understanding of one another? Is there a way for us to create digital pen pals to help fight the polarization of beliefs? His talk left me with a lot to think about.