A couple of weeks ago, the Crimson published an article titled “The Samford bubble exists because we care too much about what others think.” While the piece raised a compelling discussion regarding Samford students’ priorities, I wanted to expand the concept of the bubble. I argue that the Samford bubble is not solely attributed to students caring too much about what others think, but results more from a lack of awareness of existence outside of one’s own frame of reference or worldview.
I recently took a quiz on the PBS website called ‘Do you live in a bubble’? The results indicated that I not only live in a bubble, but live in the second most thick type of bubble compared to
other Americans. I have since been deeply considering my own bubble experience and, by extension, Samford’s bubble experience. I say this to recognize my own participation in the observations I address. I am speaking from a place of personal contrition and do not have the goal of shaming anyone or any group, for I too am a bubble perpetrator.
The bubble is less a product of the norms we construct as a student culture and more a result of our tendency to insulate ourselves from the people, communities, and world outside of the iron gates. Sometimes those norms and insulation go hand in hand, but the concept of the bubble has implications much deeper than the pressures we place on each other to dress, text, or act in a certain way. The bubble encourages us to surround ourselves with people just like us. It deceives us into thinking that everyone operates under the same assumptions and comes from the same background. This creates a false sense that we are the standard for humanity and any deviation from that standard is wrong or flawed.
The bubble allows us to think it’s ok to travel the world in order to convert others to our way of thinking without first taking the time to understand our current neighbors and classmates who live and think differently. The bubble permits us to mock the language of another culture during a foreign movie shown for convo simply because it is unfamiliar to us. The bubble enables us to perceive those with differing perspectives as alien projects to be manipulated, rather than real people to be respected.
I do not think it is inherently wrong for Samford as an institution to insulate a certain set of principles. After all, that is what arguably makes it unique and contributes to its commitment to service outside of campus. The danger occurs when students fail to put those principles in conversation with anything else, breeding a homogeneity of ideas and culture that can be toxic.
In other words, while the bubble itself can provide a context for growth and learning, failure to recognize it and its effects can be harmful. The goal is not to criticize Samford as an institution, but to question an aspect of the student culture, its unchallenged, unintegrated acceptance of certain ideas simply because they are comfortable or familiar. It is also important to note that while I have addressed the distinctions of the Samford bubble, bubbles of varying sorts and forms exist everywhere, including other universities, and must be met with the same caution.
So far this commentary may come across as jaded and discouraging, but the purpose is quite the opposite. For just as Samford culture has worked to build the bubble, it can and is working to burst it. The bubble only has the power that we give it. Each of us has creative ability to thin the zones of oblivion and comfort we construct on campus. Join a service cadre, go on a trip with the Office of Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives, attend an event hosted by a club you don’t know much about. Engage in a way that allows you to see the world from a new perspective.
Cameron Teaney, Columnist
[photo courtesy of Creative Commons]