Pay Attention, Stay Informed…and Go Out and Make Some News of Your Own
A popular bumper sticker when I was an activist in the 70’s and 80’s: If you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention. So much to pay attention to in those days, and show up to do something about – war raging in Vietnam, civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, disabled rights.
Still so much to be outraged about these days, sometimes even protesting the regression of the progress made then. Alas, much of what we are fed through the media and social media nowadays is deliberately meant to create fear and outrage.
From the person who so skillfully challenged the fear and outrage that gave birth to this nation in the Declaration of Independence:
In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. -Thomas Jefferson
Three suggestions in how to stand like a rock (rather than throwing rocks at people we disagree with):
Stay on a Media Diet
I first heard of the wisdom of a media diet from Barbara Fredrickson in her book Positivity: Discover the Upward Spiral that Will Change Your Life. She suggested in 2009, before the tsunami of social media and “fake news” changed forever how we consume our news, that watching 5-10 minutes of news a day was enough to stay informed and not be deluged by more information than we could digest. Since then, many researchers have recommended not watching the late evening news, more likely to upset the nervous system just as the body-mind is trying to settle down to sleep. Watch the 6pm news instead, to give the body-mind time to digest and metabolize the most significant news of the day.
Protect against Toxicity
In one of the key lines in the film Bombshell, about the revelations of sexual abuse at Fox News that brought down the CEO Roger Ailes, a veteran reporter is coaching a newbie, “Frighten and titillate; frighten and titillate; that’s Fox News.” Paying attention, staying informed, is essential to good citizenry. Protecting our capacities for clear thinking and sound judgement is also essential to a good citizenry. Falling into the messiness of “lynching by Twitter” is not.
And I’m not making this up. As I was writing this post, an email arrived from Amazon recommending Anti-Social Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy. I don’t know anything about the merits of the book but hat Amazon’s algorithms would send me that link as I was writing this post is a little disconcerting.
If You Don’t Like the News, Go Out and Make Some of Your Own.
This is the famous “by-line” of radio commentator Wes “Scoop” Nisker. Also essential for good citizenry, to move beyond consuming the news or confronting/challenging the news to going out, speaking out, reaching out, making news of our own…..starting a gardening program for prison inmates as folks have done at San Quentin State Prison or bringing mindfulness and emotional intelligence curricula to schools throughout the country.
In every community there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart there is the power to do it.
– Marianne Williamson