Walk Down the Hall Backwards: Understanding Our Personal Lens

I once had my students walk down the hall backwards to the outside where I had them write while lying on the ground looking up, sitting on top of my car, looking down from a tree, after spinning, and staring upside down.

I tried to explain to the administrators that it was needed. We were in a rut and were seeing things from only one perspective, from only one lens. Worse, we didn’t recognize it.

Despite the tension this caused with the administration and curious looks from community members passing by the school, it worked. We expanded our thoughts and started to see that our lens was but one of many. To grow and build a stronger community, we needed to recognize our lens and embrace what other lens offered.

Sometimes I feel we on social media need to walk down the hall backwards.

Social media allows voices to stretch and be heard globally. These connections often build relationships that remind me of how the old neighborhoods felt: connected, caring, free flowing, and open. Well, some of those neighbors were more angry, closed, and scary but I digress.

Because of the neighborhood feel and front porch/fence style conversations, there are times when we forget that our lens is often quite localized while the conversation is diverse and wide stretching.

A colleague I deeply respect, Brian Crosby, reminded me of this years ago on Twitter when I was speaking about an important policy in our school that I felt others should consider, too. He reminded me of my high school lens and the differences at the elementary level. Simple? Yes! But how easy it is to forget even these differences in lenses.

It is a reminder we should all take to heart. As Ruth Benedict said, “We do not see the lens through which we look”, which is apparent a lot when we see or engage in conversations on Twitter, blogs, and the new Google+.

We appear to forget the local lens from which we speak or others take ideas from our conversations forgetting the narrowness of those lenses.

Is this dangerous? I believe it is if we aren’t mindful of the diversity in ideas, the wealth of possibilities that exist beyond one way of seeing things.

How do we remind ourselves of the lens we speak in order to engage in meaningful discussion? How do share our ideas in a way that doesn’t insult others who are facing a much different lens? How do we widen our lens and grow from those that are a part of our life?

Yes, this may seem like common sense. One might suggest that this is about critical thinking. I would agree. Even with that said, it is important to enter the social media aware of the lens in which you speak in order to embrace a wider body of possibilities from the diverse lenses that embody social networks.

(Image: upside down, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No-Derivative-Works (2.0) image from allformelody’s photostream)

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