For the first time in months, I went to Woolworths, which is the largest supermarket chain in Australia (Americans, think of Walmart). I was on a mission to find organic tofu which was unfortunately wrapped in plastic—but we were willing to make the compromise this time around.
I quickly grabbed the tofu and took the opportunity to browse the isles to see if there were any new vegan products. As I was looking, I couldn’t help but do some people watching.
I saw lots of interesting things as I was essentially judging my local community. There were young adults in gym wear buying lean meat and pre-packaged chopped vegetables. I saw mothers with trolleys filled to the brim with packs of juice boxes, Wonder White bread, dairy milk, caged eggs, the list goes on.
It was quite horrifying to watch folks buy products that are not only harmful to the planet and animals but also to themselves.
I don’t believe I’m going to say this. But I felt like Maša—who has been a conscious consumer, long before she was vegan. She would always gasp at what other people bought, and I wouldn’t think twice of it.
But years later, here I was feeling the exact same way. Maybe it’s because I got used to reading labels as part of our business, or because I had a heightened awareness of the impacts of waste. Whatever it was, the feeling was hard to shake.
The power of confirmed bias.
To find out why I was feeling the way I was feeling, I did some soul searching. Then I remembered watching an interview Barack Obama did with David Letterman on Netflix. In the conversation, Obama spoke about the impact technology has on how we all view our reality.
Every news app, search engine, social media platform is trying to give you personalised information, with the goal of keeping you on their platform for longer.
For example, my iPhone comes with a free app called News (Google has something similar). When I first opened the app, it gave me a diverse stream of content across multiple interests, whether it was politics, sports, technology, or pop culture. But over time, as I focused my attention on a specific topic, each time the app would refresh, it would give me more content related to that topic.
The News app also enables you to select your favourite topics and publications, so the feed gives you more of what you want.
On the surface, this algorithm is convenient. I love reading about the NBA, tech, creativity and pop culture. Why wouldn’t I want to get more of that?
The challenge with this perspective, however, is this level of personalisation starts to box me into a bubble with the things I’m interested in. I lose perspective of what’s happening outside of my bubble.
The vegan bubble.
One of the strongest confirmed bias’s I have is veganism. I care so much about simple and compassionate living that I want to fill my YouTube feeds, Facebook, Instagram, News with positive content on veganism.
Beyond technology, I’ve surrounded myself with people who share similar values to mine, all contributing to my confirmed bias of what my reality is.
What I realise now is that my confirmed bias is a way to cope with what I feel is broken in the world.
The scale of consumerism even at my local supermarket was insane. Let alone the volume of animal products I saw go through checkout.
It’s in these moments of reality that I could either feel super depressed or even more motivated to get our message out. I tend to float between the two approaches, depending on the day.
Get connected with reality.
My vegan bubble feels like it’s a massive bubble because that’s most of what I let myself experience. In my world, it appears that everyone is going vegan. But the reality is, consumerism and animal cruelty have never been at a higher level.
This reality is not necessarily a bad thing though. If anything, being immersed outside of your bubble, has some significant benefits.
For one, grounding yourself, in reality, reconnects you to why you started living differently. I remember being one of the many people in the supermarket, blindly buying products. My priorities were taste, convenience, performance and price. At no time did I think about the supply chain, the reality of the product (death of an animal), waste, or avoiding unnecessary purchases.
Seeing this in action reminds you of how the majority of people still live today, and it should be motivating to continue your cause.
Coming outside of your bubble also gives you the opportunity to communicate better with those who don’t think the same way as you. For example, at my day job, one of my colleagues was bragging about how much they just ate at McDonald’s.
My teammates were all having a laugh together and then quickly remembered that I was vegan, and proceeded to apologise. I assured them that it was okay for them to continue their conversation, and I too used to feel the same way about McDonald’s.
I could sense relief amongst everyone, and if anything, it made my journey towards veganism even more relatable than what they previously thought. They walked away from our interaction thinking, “he used to be like me, and now he’s vegan…interesting”.
Some final words.
Be mindful of your confirmed bias. We all want to live in a world based on our own interests. To an extent, creating your reality is necessary if you’re going to be a vegan. We’re talking about shifting your paradigm in ways you haven’t experienced in the past, and with that, you need all of the knowledge, assistance and assurance you can get.
However, once you’ve adjusted to your vegan lifestyle, it’s crucial that you stay grounded in what’s happening in the world. Veganism isn’t watching young girls preparing smoothie bowls on YouTube. Veganism is being aware of the thousands of animals being slaughtered by the time you finish reading this sentence. And sometimes you need to get out in the real world to understand just how shocking the situation is, so you move through your life with more urgency to make a change.