I was reading a post from Carlos López (in Spanish) about how futile “favourite” lists can be on literature, even if it comes from a well known author or intellectual; arguing that literature taste is like football taste, totally subjective, and that each book touches each person in a different way. I totally agree with that idea. However it seems that more and more lists, not only on literature, but any other field you can imagine have been released over the internet or even books have been written about them.
Sergei Rachmaninov said that one life is not enough for all the music, but music is enough for one life. On the age of internet, there’s so much information floating around that it’s so difficult to keep track of the relevant stream, indeed one life is not enough, not just for music, but for the books, and all the knowledge we would like to have, so there’s a necessity of focusing our time on the information that is relevant to us. Hence these lists are helpers on the “things to do” or “things to look at” for people.
There has being several on-going discussions on G+ about the list of recommended users to follow, sites like recommendedusers.com have tried to make unofficial lists, after the first google attempt of an “official recommendation” wasn’t that welcome. I have been participating in several of these discussions, but one that made me think the most was one about Carter Gibson's post discussing the lack of sexuality on your about information, after this Ryan Crow expanded the debate, on a post of his own, to also political views and religion fields on G+ profiles. Do we really need them? I argued in favour of those fields to be included, since there’s a real need of community build around sexuality, political views and even religion (or lack of it). For mainstream people (ie. heterosexual, christian, capitalists) there’s no real problem, but to minorities this becomes more of an issue, you can see my comments on the thread for more about that, but a lot of comments of people who were against made me think.
Even in a small and emerging social network as Google Plus, with “only” 25 million users, there’s so many people there that it’s hard to find who to follow on it. Ideally, we would go around and start following people based on their comments, and the things they share, people who we really find interesting. Reality is that if we don’t narrow down the numbers, based on our interests, we would not have the time to do it, or just drift away in the flow of information without a set course. So yes, we need those lists, and people like Alireza Yavari are doing a great job in putting them all together.
However, how healthy is this?. A comment from a friend of mine on FB saying that she should know better than reading certain papers, is symptomatic of our days. We only want to read and see things that we agree with, in a way reaffirming our thoughts and avoid confronting our point of view. We seek for like-minded people and content only, that could lead us to just to alienate ourselves.
This interesting video talks precisely about that:
It’s not just ourselves consciously putting filters on which type of content we want to see, or what kind of people we want to hear or read. Now even the search websites and social networks are putting in place algorithms to filter for us the information stream, leaving us, for all practical purposes, living in a bubble of information that, yes is the one we like, but making all the rest of it a black box to us. Learning and growing as a person is not all about things you like or things you agree with, or things that went well in your life, it’s actually mainly about mistakes, confrontation of ideas, things that went wrong, that is what make us grow, that is what makes us learn.
There’s no use in just having information flowing in front of us that just make us shake our heads in agreement
It is in a way like the parents of these days who don’t want their children to be exposed to any bacteria at all, and keep everything crystal clean, living in almost an sterilized environment; and therefore those kids never develop the necessary antibodies.
We need exposure to all kind of ideas, not just the ones we like, but mainly the ones that are relevant, not only to us, but to the world we live.
So yes, it’s great to have a list of books you should read, a list of like-minded people you can follow, a list of your favourite papers and columnists. But don’t limit yourself to only that, explore new avenues, read things that make you think, even that make you angry. I will probably will keep using those kind of lists, since yes, we all need to narrow down what it seems to endless sources of information; but I would suggest, try now and again to just find things the old fashion way, without anyone telling you which way is the right one, just exploring.