Plus One Readers Club

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I left political organizing because I was tired of toeing policy lines that didn't allow for nuanced solutions. Honestly, it didn't really even allow for conversations about how whatever policy solution was offering might not necessarily address the root issues at hand. 

I came to media, independent feminist media, to explore and amplify exactly the opposite: Difficult conversations that might not arrive at clear conclusions, but might make readers feel seen, heard, reflected. And my hope was, of course, that I'd be working in a field that could offer our communities more in terms of policy suggestions, even if those suggestions were adjacent to the rubber-hits-the-road political process.  

The problem though, isn't just how much room we leave to talk about the hard stuff, and it isn't exactly the media we're creating, either—even though deliberate misinformation from the right (and in some cases, the left) exacerbates our divisions. The problem is how that news spreads with unquestioned validity within communities but always faces insurmountable scrutiny when we attempt to spread it across communities. 

Sadly, it seems clear that the problem is Facebook. More than 67 percent of Americans get their news from the social media giant, and the Wall Street Journal's Blue Feed vs Red Feed project makes clear that our newsfeeds are fiercely divided by political views.

What to do? Well, for one thing, I think that all media outlets should have a plan in place to answer that question: What happens to our organization in Facebook disappears tomorrow? And that's something we're actively working on at Bitch Media. But I'm actually more interested in how to solve the Facebook polarization problem on a more personal level. 

That's why I'm interested in starting the first Plus One Readers Club. The club only has one rule (other than The Golden Rule):

Each person, including the person who starts the club, can only invite one other person to join, and that person cannot be someone you're currently intimately involved with or close to. 

My hope is to create a different type of space, one that reaches beyond those we might easily have connections with based on our strong ties (building on Grannovetter's famous social theory). By developing a more formal space where each member has very little control over who joins the larger group, we're opening ourselves to those who might disagree with us in small or larger ways. 

Each person, including the person who starts the club, can only invite one other person to join, and that person cannot be someone you’re currently intimately involved with or close to. 

The Plus One Readers Club is an experiment in reaching beyond. In challenging our personal lives in small routine ways, and hopefully, by extension, rebuilding our world in similarly small and self-perpetuating fashion. Above everything else, it's an attempt to answer that question that's been haunting me across personal and professional: How do we expose ourselves to differences in spaces where we share common goals and mutual respect? How do we keep sight of what's dear to us, and at the same time, bring into focus what's dear to others? 

Last night, I shared my idea with someone I know, but not all that well, and who I probably agree with on 98 percent of the issues. I invited my one person to the first Plus One Readers Club. We're meeting soon to maybe hash out more of this idea—maybe a better name? (ha)—and we'll see how it goes. If we can come to a common understanding in the two percent margins where we don't already overlap, and ultimately, everyone in our club does the same, we might just have a shot at making progress.

kate lesniak