Claire King

Author

Why are we letting ourselves down?

Posted on: June 17th, 2016 by Claire - 7 Comments

There has been a lot of blame in the news this week and on social media. It has been almost overwhelming.

You’ve all seen it: The divisive, the shameful, the trolling, the finger pointing and the hatred… The way we talk about the EU referendum, about the massacre in Orlando, about the elections in the USA, and now about yesterday’s terrible, tragic news about the murder of Jo Cox.

We have become who the mass media wants us to become. Afraid, angry and confrontational. We are confused by party political rhetoric and scant access to useful, unbiased information. We don’t know enough about the issues of the day that affect us and others and so we dig our heels in and shout louder. We make disagreement negative and personal. We live in a world where we educate our children but not ourselves. As though we are full and complete. We have lost the desire to constantly inform and re-inform ourselves in a changing world. To seek out the truth. Yes, many of the issues in our world are complicated and in many cases far from black and white, but most of them can be explained intelligently and succinctly in a way we can all understand. But the mass media chooses not to do that and the rest of us, mostly, do nothing. If we don’t find a way to change this soon, the risks are appalling.

Photo by Rachel Carter 16th June 2016

Photo by Rachel Carter 16th June 2016

Jo Cox turned out to be, it emerged very quickly, an extraordinary, inspirational woman in many ways. Why had so few people heard of her outside of her constituency? Because striving for good doesn’t sell papers. Because her hard work and dedication does not give us the feeling of righteous indignation we seem to thrive on these days. Because no one ever posted anything on Facebook about her that went viral.

This is OUR responsibility. We can’t affect what the media decides to feed us, but this is the age of SOCIAL MEDIA. It’s an age where WE are the authors of a huge amount of the information that our friends and families consume. And what do we do with that? We share links to the Daily Mail, or Bored Panda, to pages with a thin smear of news sandwiched between thick slices of clickbait and consumer advertising.  On our Facebook pages we post selfies and updates on what we have eaten.

I like seeing photos of your families and the nice meals that have made you happy. I do. But why are we not posting and sharing more useful, helpful information? Why are we not creating and sharing more posts that allow us to learn and grow in our adulthood? Writing that helps us change our minds – because we should change our minds more often. Why are we not sharing stories about the people around us who are hard working, inspirational, and great? People to be proud of. Stories that make us proud of our country. Stories that make us want to improve ourselves and our country and our world. Why are we not telling and sharing these stories?

Why are letting ourselves down?

We need to take responsibility for this and I, for one, am going to make a concerted effort to change. Will you join me?

7 Responses

  1. Charles King says:

    I have an increasingly cynical and grumpy view of the Mass Media, as is appropriate for my status of a Middle Aged Englishman. They no longer see it as their job to report the news impartially, or even accurately. They see it as their job to generate cash through advertising and power through the manipulation of the populace.

    However, as you rightly point out, we have the means, both intellectual and technical, to do something about it.

    At the time of writing, a fine example of what is wrong and what is right in media (mainstream and social) is the debate around Britain’s referendum on leaving the EU. Brexit is horribly complicated and should never have been a decision to be made my me, the postie and Shouty Linda from the Dog and Duck. Bereft of a degree in Economics from Cambridge, I’ve been trying to understand it so as not to sound like a twonk in front of my mates.

    It has been painfully obvious from the outset that I wasn’t going to get anything more than propaganda from the politicians on either side, nor from the mainstream press that they influence. Nor, indeed, from those of my mates who use them as sources.

    I have, however, been able to find out all kinds of useful stuff for the minimal effort required to listen, think, follow leads and apply a degree of qualitative judgement to things I read. Perhaps if I *did* have a degree, I’d have been taught to do that rather earlier than GrumpyOldManHood.

    I would like to second your call for continuing to learn – be it Baking, Bricklaying or Brexit. The exercise is good for you.

    I would also like to second your call for sharing the fruits of your own learning. It’s not as easy as trotting out the honey-glazed click-bait of the Daily Fail (I’ve fallen foul of that easily enough myself [1]), but it’s FAR more satisfying.

    We are a fantastic collection of diverse and intelligent individuals and, as such, far more qualified to change the world than the monolithic Murdoch machines who would have us march to the tune of their guy-on-a-yacht.

    [1] OK, not the actual Mail because… well… *shudder*

  2. Katie Willis says:

    I will join you.
    Personally these feel like extraordinary times.There is a lot of fear around. I can feel it. Fear leads people to do things out of the ordinary, to shut themselves away because they don’t know how to respond, or to respond in anger, with coldness or with hate.
    There’s an edginess in the world. That’s what I’m picking up. And I’ve been edgy too, despite my trying to deal with it head on.
    There are always ordinary people doing extraordinary things every day. People with a strong sense of social justice. People just wanting to make the world a slightly better place for themselves, for those they love and for the next generation. Jo Cox was most definitely one of them.
    The ME world lost someone very special this week too. Jodi Bassett was the founder of the Hummingbirds’ Foundation for ME website. Why does it matter to me? Because ME is one of the illnesses I have. Why was this so important? Because she attempted to draw a path through the forest to those newly diagnosed with the illness. She was an ordinary person touched by illness doing an extraordinary thing. She was truly inspirational to many because she offered them hope when they thought all hope was lost.
    We don’t need to meet these people to see the good that they do. We feel it. It seeps into every pore of our being and their deaths are our loss. In them we see the best of ourselves. And in the political wranglings, the mass murder in Orlando, we see the worst of ourselves.
    That’s a huge spectrum to confront and, like I said, I think it leaves us edgy because we don’t necessarily know what to do with how we feel. There’s too much to feel, and in this Internet era, there’s also way too much information to process.
    Too much to feel. Too much to absorb. One alternative is to shut it all away in a box and pretend we’re not affected. I can’t do this. I won’t do this. We are affected. We are all touched in some way.
    The desire to learn, the need to feel, to express how and why we feel can surely only make us stronger. And more human.

    • Claire says:

      Thank you for such a thoughtful and emotional reply. I feel the edginess too and it’s discomforting. Thank you also for sharing about Jodi. I’ve had a look at her website, which is such a poignant thing to do when you know that person is now only living in others’ hearts and memories. I’m posting it here for others. http://www.ahummingbirdsguide.com/abouttheauthor.htm
      I hope with a little attention from everyone we can make a difference and fill our news feeds with more positive, constructive posts. x

  3. tu says:

    Yes. (Galloping, but yes.)

  4. Mike Clarke says:

    Completely agree with your sentiments, Claire.

    I’ve found this referendum campaign deeply disturbing — a kind of collective psychosis that seems to happen more often in the era of social media. It reminds me a little of the way the 2011 riots took hold. Thankfully sanity was restored after that episode.

    • Claire says:

      I hope it will be, and quickly, after this too. The amount of energy expended on this, mostly negative energy has been extraordinary. Thinking back to 2012 and the Olympics, I felt very proud of Britain. We see to have lost that feeling lately.

  5. Well said. And yes.
    Is it a function of the speed of response elicited on social media (indeed, the internet in general) that pulls out our most basic responses when there is ‘an issue’ aired? The knee-jerk, the armour-plate, the yell and duck below the parapet?
    Perhaps the old ‘count ten’ rule might be applied occasionally? In addition to active remembering – wasn’t this name laughing with us yesterday – maybe a putting of social media back in its rightful box might help – useful, sometimes, fun sometimes, like any partaaaay – to be taken with a pinch of salt most of the time.

    xxx

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