Sometimes the Internet seems like Pandora’s box. It’s easier than ever before for disinformation to spread. It makes the early ages of yellow journalism seem quaint in comparison.
But even as I say this, I can’t deny how many benefits it’s simultaneously presented. Online shopping is hard to ignore, how incredibly helpful it is to be able to get practically anything you’d ever want shipped to you… and on tight time frames that would have been ludicrous growing up (when 6 to 8 weeks was a fairly standard expectation on shipping).
But there are so many other intangible ways that the Internet has changed my life. A big one is how much it’s let me learn about other people: What they’re like, how they operate.
Sometimes the Internet helps me learn that I’m not alone. It validates me, showing me that other people have niche interests and/or strange ideas that I thought only I had.
Other times, it highlights differences that I never knew were there.
For example, I was surprised to learn lately that there are people who don’t have an inner voice. No internal monologue.
I certainly do. I hear my own thoughts. It’s a bit like there’s a little narrator inside my head. In fact, it’s that little narrator that basically writes a lot of my essays.
Apparently though, a lot of people don’t “hear” their own thoughts. It’s more non-verbal, more felt. And it can be difficult for them to verbalize those thoughts, turn them into words.
And it also turns out that both types of people (narratives and non-narratives) are often completely unaware that the other type exists. They think that the way they are is just the way that people are.
I Wonder How Many Misunderstandings Happened Because of Differences We Weren’t Aware Of
If I look back on my past relationships, it does cause me to wonder… how many misunderstandings could have been caused with former partners because one of us had that internal monologue and the other didn’t.
Because we made assumptions about how that other person processed the world — and therefore read into how they communicated or didn’t.
If I think back, I can see all sorts of ways we may have failed one another. On both sides. Because we projected the structure and function of our own inner life onto others, made the assumption that their inner lives functioned the same, and analyzed one another’s outer lives through that lens.
A lens that very well may have been unfair.
We Don’t Know What We’re Missing
It’s all a bit dizzying. Because here’s the thing: We don’t know what we’re missing. Today it’s one quality — the presence or absence of an verbal inner monologue.
Tomorrow it’s something else. Tomorrow it’s another way that people differ that we didn’t know about before.
That’s why it’s important to hold space open not for any particular framework but for the general idea that the people we know, even the people we love, might differ from us in ways that we can’t comprehend. Not now. Maybe not ever.
Because new frameworks will come and go — whether or not we hear of them in time. And the differences will remain, whether or not we’re aware of them.
We may not ever understand all of those differences. But we can make room for them regardless.