Ok everyone, let's take a deep breath. There has been a lot happening this week in the world of news and social media. And a lot of noise. Let me just quickly point out that I am not here to add to it. I am not here to give my opinions on a highly publicised and watched interview. Nor am I going to discuss the subsequent fallout from it. News stories don't remain news stories anymore. They have become a jumping off point for us to air our deeply held beliefs no matter how damaging they can be. Soundbites taken out of context to social media erupting into a blaze of fear, finger-pointing, and frustration at how far we haven't come as a society today.
Historically, headlines were meant to do--they were meant to attract your attention so that you buy a newspaper and then read the entire article. Today, all people see are headlines on their social media feeds and don't bother with either reading the article or watching the entire video/interview. What most people consuming news today don't invest their time in is context. Instead, they respond to clickbait.
We are so willing to jump on a bandwagon, one that appeals to our deepest convictions, and add to the noise because that bandwagon helps us feel like we belong. Somewhere. That bandwagon is our community of like-minded members even if that bandwagon isn't taking us anywhere. And that is the danger of following stories that are "trending". As written in Social Sprout, "social media algorithms take the reins of determining which content to deliver to you based on your behavior." It's basically following your lead based on who you follow and with what you like or engage. Social media has given us all an outlet and an audience for our opinions. What should never be confused though, is that opinions are not facts. Opinions can be made based on facts but they aren't facts in and of themselves.
The difficulty of the situation we are in today is that what we are seeing and consuming is a lot of noise. Everyone is sharing their thoughts and opinions. Freedom of speech is a sword we all use to protect our right to say what we want. Words have always been powerful but today they can be deadly when spewing hatred or telling the truth--depending from which side of the coin you're looking. What gets lost in the noise is the ability to listen, to really hear what someone is saying, to understand, and perhaps, to reflect. It's like watching a cable news show with multiple guests all talking over each other and the viewer is left feeling battered and bruised and not having learned a thing. People are afraid to admit they're wrong or don't know anything about a subject, fearing they'll appear weak. Yet admitting our mistakes and our ignorance and a willingness to to learn from them is what takes the most strength. That's when really effective conversations can take place.
We live in a world that isn't, pardon the pun, black or white. Instead we live in one filled with many shades of grey. Whatever the story is--be it about an interview, about racism, about crime--the response to it needs to be one where the details of the story need to be thoroughly understood, thoroughly researched. We live in a time where trial by social media has immense impact and ramifications. The route to the "truth" is a long and winding rabbit-hole through which our immediate-gratification society doesn't have the time, the patience, the will, and definitely the emotional capacity to explore. What is becoming increasingly evident especially when we read the comments on posts (if you have the stomach for it) is the reactive anger and frustration that is being felt. Frustration over feeling sidelined, judged. Anger because life is deeply unjust for so many and the only way they can feel a semblance of control is to react with deeply felt emotions. There are many people who will comment with vitriol on posts and articles because they will never ask the question "why?" Yet it is when we start to ask that very question do we begin to pull at a thread that often leads us to places that are unfamiliar and certainly unlike anything with which we are comfortable. Many don't want to understand why people are the way they are, why they behave the way they do, why they think the way they do, for one simple reason: if they ask that question of another they would feel compelled to ask that question of themselves.
Exploring who we are and why we behave, react, feel the way we do makes us deeply uncomfortable. But as I have often written in this blog, understanding ourselves first and foremost, being self-aware, doing the hard work of realising where our patterns and beliefs come from, is the first and most profound step before we can understand others. When we do, we see others with a different lens. That's the only way we can healthily engage with the world today otherwise we get lost in the hurricane of public opinions swirling around and around, without an answer or solution in sight. So, I have had to extricate myself from the storm by being quiet, not engaging or jumping into the fray. The only way I can ever contribute to the important conversations that need to be had today is by finding context and always asking the question "why?" And I will continue to do so through The Citrine Room. Also, a fantastic resource for getting straight facts not the fat around is an outlet called News Not Noise. It was created by my former colleague at CNN Jessica Yellin to, "explain what matters, why, and what you can ignore. We give you context instead of anxiety. Interviews with experts not pundits. And we don’t waste your time with jargon, angry rhetoric, predictions, projections, or partisanship.
We just want to leave you with a better understanding of the truth and facts so you can make smart decisions about your world." We definitely need more of that.
In some ways, that's what #Repost is all about. Stories that bring context, perspective, and a pivot to people who are claiming their space in this world by finding happiness, success, and even changing the narratives that surround them just by doing their own thing.