13. Don’t Join a Tribe, Instead, Embrace Nuance

This essay is part of my 42 Deep Thoughts project.

Warning: this next bit of advice may harm your social standing.

I’ve written about how important it is to evaluate, and reevaluate, the thought frameworks you use. The tools you use shape the way you think, and are. So it’s important to evaluate these tools regularly.

People don’t like to think too hard if they don’t have to. Thinking things through is hard. Being lazy can be virtuous, but not always. I’ve noticed that people like to find other people to tell them what to think. Have you ever sought out a “guru” or a mentor?

When seeking out shortcuts in life, having a mentor to show you shortcuts can be essential. However one “shortcut” you don’t want to take is shortcuts in your thought.

So much of our politics today, and social media, has turned us into tribes. And we must support our tribe unthinkingly. If we do not, we’re at risk of being thrown away, or worse, canceled. “If you’re not with us, you’re against us,” right?

So much of the podcast and the “news” industry is built around telling us what to think. There are some very intelligent people who offer expert analysis in these spheres. But more often than not, in the best case scenario, the “experts” have little to no subject matter expertise.

I’m not against listening to, and thinking through, other people’s opinions. Listening to other people’s opinions is a crucial part of developing your own opinions.

However, no one is immune to lazy thinking, and these experts have deadlines. More often than not, their publication has pre-conceived notions and agendas. Be on the lookout for groupthink.


I grew up in an orthodox community. While the community I grew up in encouraged questioning and thinking, it also encouraged accepting the word of the community thought leader, the Rabbi, over all else. I grew up worshiping several of these thought leaders and ate up everything they said.

When I was 12 my family moved from the United States to Israel. I was an outsider there. I could never be truly Israeli—I was the American. Ironically, after moving back to the United States I saw that I would never truly be American either—I was Israeli.

Being an outsider, without a tribe, gave me insight into elements of groupthink I may have missed otherwise.

When I broke away from religion, I thought that the secular world would be more thoughtful. I was wrong. In the last decade, with the rise of social media, the world has embraced polarizing groupthink.

Not unlike the world I grew up in, you are encouraged to think, but only up to a point. You also must accept the party line, so don’t think too hard.

I believe deeply that it is important to continuously learn, in order to gain new perspectives. I’ve written about how when we travel we’re exposed to worlds we couldn’t access otherwise, both outer and inner worlds.

When we adhere to our tribe’s worldview unquestioningly, we are at risk of atrophying our minds. And worse, we risk giving over our freedom to the tyranny of other’s agendas.

When your social bubble is in mass hysteria about an essay that is wrongthink, be skeptical. Did you read it, did you think about it, before reaching your conclusion?

Maybe the masses are right?

But if you jump into the fray just because all the right people are saying something, you are giving up your autonomy, and ceding your unique perspective — the greatest gift you could give to the conversation.

No two people are alike. Everyone has a different perspective because the constellation of experiences that made them who they are is different. Every person has a unique, nuanced, perspective on the world. This includes you.

Social media is a gift to autocracies that want to undermine our values, and our way of living. They do this by finding hot points, and stoking those flames. The antidote to this attack on our democracy is to take the time to think before reacting.

I’ve been a victim to this, just as almost everyone else has. I can be lazy too.

Embrace nuance.

Nuance: noun
a subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound.

Oxford English Dicitionary

Nuance is where beauty lies. Nuance begins where ideas start to become complex.

Nuance is holding onto two conflicting ideas, and understanding that neither is correct; that you need to hold onto both in order to get as close to the truth and fairness as possible.

Nuance is when someone makes an off colored joke before getting on an hours-long plane journey, and understanding that while their phrasing offended your sensibility, they actually have dedicated more time towards the causes you hold dear than you have. So maybe you should give them a break.

Nuance is not performative. You cannot use nuance to stoke the rage of a stadium full of adoring followers enticing them to donate to your campaign and vote for you.

Nuance cannot be conveyed in a slogan. You can’t get your followers to tweet and retweet your nuanced ideas—these don’t fit into 280 characters.

Nuance is lonely. You will not be accepted into any tribe if you’re unwilling to accept their dogma. There may be beauty and truth in some of their ideas. But if you embrace nuance, you’ll never be able to embrace dogma.

Image details: Mosaic from Pompeii