Before this article begins, go ahead and look at your feed(s). Go ahead, look at it. This article will wait. Go ahead and scroll. No one will mind.
Now think how much actual news you saw. No, I’m not talking about your high score on Words With Friends, or how awesome your friend’s boyfriend is. How much is actual, relevant news? A small percent, if I’m guessing right. The plain and simple point here is how removed from the world each of our individual worlds are. If we assume that we are all online (I know we aren’t, just go with me), that’s 6.9 billion people communicating in 140 characters or less, or the same reblogged post that so-and-so shared.
Technologically, that’s a great idea. Everyone connected, sharing instantly. This sentence can be read across the globe at a megabyte per second (more if you’re lucky or rich enough).
It’s also terrible.
For every one news post consumed, we are consuming by ratio a much greater amount of trash. Of innocuous Farmville posts or pictures of food. Meanwhile, events are happening across the globe that are actually relevant beyond the concept of our own two mile span.
We need to change our viewpoint.
If we are indeed this globally connected, rather than indulging in the inane (as we so often do), we should be focusing on what is actually news. We as a whole are doing not only ourselves a disservice by not being more aware of the events around us, but we are doing future generations a disservice by passing on the idea that this behavior is acceptable.
Recently, I questioned a friend of mine if he had seen any increased traffic. This is from this past week, where there was a major fire at a corporate building causing a redirection of traffic roughly three miles from where he lived. He hadn’t even known about the fire, much less any traffic. Yes, I am aware that there are mitigating circumstances that could prevent that, but when we aren’t even aware of what happens around us, we are setting up a cycle of eternally being unawares, and being readily convinced of ideas simply because they’re shared, liked, or re-whatevered.
From the concept of these shared ideas, what we see being overtly shared are memetic messages displaying the same polarized political views “Obama’s gonna take our guns,” or “Share this if you like baby’s. Don’t share if you want cancer.” This white noise filling our minds is simply that. Static distracting us from what is actually going on. Follow whatever you like, but the world exists beyond egocentricity. Not that there’s anything wrong with being narcissistic, considering that there are healthy amounts of it, but there is a world out there.
Plain and simple, it’s time we started being aware of it.
I’m talking about beyond the pet causes that cycle through your feeds. It shouldn’t take a natural disaster for us to be concerned about Haiti, or warlords to make us feel concerned any number of countries in Africa. Frankly, we should be concerned because we share…whatever makes you comfortable. A genus, a species, the air, the water, the same overall space. We all exist, we are sentient, and we all deserve respect. Golden rule and all that crap.
So what can we do to free ourselves from this rut of inane statuses, celebrity retweets, and things that are posted only for other’s interest? It’s simple. Be more aware. Realize that Newton’s laws of physics apply beyond motion.
So here’s my Rx to get you started on the wide world of actually giving two craps beyond yourself and your groups of friends.
1) Find something you like that deals with news locally. Start paying attention to it. I started with having to listen to right wing pundits on talk radio on my way to work, and eventually shifted to NPR. Did the same with websites, from gaming blogs to news blogs. Start slow, and go with what issues interest you.
2)Occasionally read your paper. It took me forever to, but now I look for local news. I want to know what’s happening in my community because it affects me.
3) If you’re on the twitter/facebook/reddit/whatever, start following the subboards of your city, or the news outlets. Again, start small.
4) Expand. Treat your mind like an empty well, ever deep and ever thirsty. Keep going until you’re reading news of countries you don’t know about. Never. Stop.