The Public Sphere was described by Habermas as a coffeehouse – but what if I don’t like coffee?
As a kid, my Nan and I would drink hot chocolate together, and we would talk about the world. I was only young, so for me, the world didn’t consist of many interesting things. My Nan, on the other hand, had a lifetime of stories and opinions and I trusted her. I didn’t like TV all that much, and I thought that the news was boring, so my Nan would tell me about everything, and the way she spoke made it sound so interesting. My Nan was my source, and I couldn’t think of anything better than that.
As I got older, I didn’t spend as much time with my Nan, instead started drinking Coca-Cola with my friends. As a bratty teenager, what my friends said and the media we engaged with seemed to be the only important thing – fat isn’t okay, masturbation is disgusting and unnatural, we must shave our entire bodies all the time to be beautiful . At the time, I didn’t think anything of it, only wanting to fit in and feel as though I’m a part of something bigger. The opinions surrounding me seemed to be the dominant discourse – almost impossible to break out from.
I’m now a 19-year-old student, and my friends and I often come together to drink tea. My beliefs and ideologies have changed since high school, and I’ve found a like-minded group of people to surround myself with. We have political discussions about everything and anything, knowing that at the end of the day we will still hug each-other goodbye – still friends at the end of it all. I engage with online content that allows me to further expand my knowledge, and share my opinions with other people around me. The internet has given me a public space to share these thoughts safely.
Public Spheres change and grow as we do, depending on the people that you surround yourself with and the period of your life that you’re in. Things change and technologies develop, meaning that our places for discussion and intellectual advancements are not set in stone. In order to be our own true selves, we need to be exposed to varying opinions – biased or unbiased, problematic or not – to allow us to collect all the information we can, hence developing our own opinions. We all grow and change, and will continue to do so for the rest of our lives – as will the public spheres that we live within.
Right now, I like tea, but maybe one day, I’ll like coffee.