In case you haven’t heard the actual news, measles has swept through portions of the country after an outbreak occurred at Disneyland. Now, this may seem like a normal pattern for a disease to take, and you’d be right in thinking that. The spread of measles has followed a predictable (and natural) pattern.
No, what makes this noteworthy is that measles is a disease that can be vaccinated against. In fact, measles was almost entirely eliminated by widespread vaccinations in the 60s and 70s. Measles has returned because there are people in the United States who do not believe in vaccinations, who, rather than accept one of the greatest gifts of scientific progress in the history of man, instead (falsely) link vaccines to Autism and proudly defend their right to not vaccinate their children. There are enough of these people in the population now to ensure that the virus has a viable path to spread through, as the number of vaccinated to unvaccinated has reached a tipping point.
Instead of an acknowledgement of guilt or perhaps an admission of ignorance, the anti-vax crowd has defiantly doubled down on the benefits of not vaccinating their children.
This response is sadly not unexpected. The return of preventable diseases like measles in America is tragic but inevitable.
For the last 20 years, American culture has become increasingly fractured, leading to the rise of subcultures, fandoms, and vacuum chambers within society. Driving this fracturing is the Internet, and especially social media, which allows like-minded people to find each other.
While this is one of the Internet’s best features, it is also dangerous, as it makes tuning out people who disagree with you easier than ever before. The eventual result is a closed-off dominion of people who only associate with or talk to each other. Point of view becomes cold, unfiltered truth, dissent becomes evil, and the capacity to sympathize, let alone empathize, with an outsider’s opinion becomes all but impossible.
It should be noted that this phenomenon is not confined to a particular side of society. Anti-vaccination, a fringe of the political left, is as closed off as global warming deniers are on the right. This phenomenon is not limited to serious topics either; try going on sites like Buzzfeed and presenting the opinion that Taylor Swift and Beyonce are maybe a bit overrated. Further, these groups are usually defined by their complete and utter opposition to the opposite group: Feminists and Meninists, The spiritual web and the Atheistic web, and on and on and on.
For the first time, the tangible and real world effects of this fracturing have been felt. By refusing to listen to an outside point of view, a wholly preventable disease has been allowed to return, free to ravage the young, the weak and the innocent.
Let the measles outbreak stand as an example of the dangers of the bubble. Seek out other points of view, be aware of the bubbles that you may have fallen into, and work on reopening honest lines of dialogue, not simply shouting matches with a rival group. The ability to have and freely express a point of view is one of the greatest things about living in a democratic country, and the ways in which that point of view can be enhanced and strengthened through a true dialogue of opposing views is an even better perk. In the case of something like vaccines, that reinterpretation may just save someone’s life.
Collegian Columnist Jesse Carey is all about disrupting the lame-stream media narrative, except for when it suits him, and can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Junotbend