I probably shouldn’t write today on a blog post. I have a million other things to write and prepare for state competition and reviews for fellow writers that could easily be occupying my full attention. I am also fully vexed (to put it nicely) with any number of people this morning making what I say here … chancy.
Disclaimer in place – here I go.
As a young woman, just out of college, I ventured around the world and ended up in England where I worked as an architect. I learned many things during that time. Attitudes towards life. Social norms. World views. Life as an adult.
I learned a lot about England I never knew. And I expected to learn about England as that is where I was living.
What I didn’t expect to learn was how much I didn’t know about being an American. And with my mood today, I could easily go on a rant about all the things I learned about Americans that I can’t stand … but I won’t. Because there are more things that I learned about being an American that I love.
Above all I love that little document we have called a Constitution that guarantees us rights as citizens of this nation that far exceed any other nation in the world.
But I digress …
When I lived in England, we sorta kinda watched the news some. (Honestly, we were so busy going places and working we hardly had time for TV.) I lived there during one of the most volatile times in history since the world wars – the late eighties and early nineties. The Berlin Wall came down, the Czech Republic split, Tianamen Square massacre happened, the IRA was bombing London, etc. At least twice a week we would show up to ride the Tube somewhere and be met with a placcard announcing the closing of the Tube station.
The interesting bit is that we never knew why the Tube stations were closed. No one said. It wasn’t in the news. The station guards would just ignore us if we asked and tell us to “move on”.
And then my mom would call, a little frantic, wanting to know if we were where the bomb was found.
You see, in England when I lived there, nothing was ever a problem as long as it didn’t end up in the news. No one had a drinking problem because no one ever talked about it. There was no terrorism because no one mentioned it in the media. Crime in London? Where? That wasn’t in the paper. It must not exist.
So, when I came back to the states, I was in for a rude shock. Because not only do we talk about everything under the sun good, bad, or indifferent, we make everything a federal case worthy of filming a movie about it and plastering it around the world for everyone to know.
My dad told me once that the media was aimed at the average twelve year old. I was twelve at the time so I didn’t take it as a compliment. But he was right.
I joined the social media sites reluctantly and only after numerous members of my family sent me multiple requests to join them there. I joined to keep in touch with family and stayed because I discovered the great thing of reconnecting with old friends.
But lately, social media has gone the way of all media. Instead of posting happenings of their lives, people are posting regurgitated news articles or memes, at least half of which I doubt they’ve even read beyond the headlines. Instead of pictures of Joe’s daughter getting her driver’s license or Mary’s birthday dinner, my newsfeed is full of articles from obscure news sources with sensationalized stories whose headlines at least half the time don’t even match what’s in the story.
More disturbing than inaccurate headlines, though, to me, is that these are the things people are spending their time posting as if they mean something or say something about who they are. This is their expression of life to the world.
And yet, it isn’t an expression at all. It’s a regurgitation of inaccurate facts. Most of it is simply someone’s opinion of something, not even a report of something that happened.
Whatever happened to thinking for ourselves? Forming our own opinions on the world? Having the ability to stand up and speak our own thoughts?
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again … with the advent of social media, we not only have our small group of local friends encouraging us to “follow” them, we have the world coaxing us to jump off the bridge. And more often than not, I’m watching my friends and family, people I care about, jump in with both feet.
What does it matter? It’s not like they are going to die from believing a new article or spouting off someone elses beliefs, right?
No, they won’t die physically like if they jumped off the bridge … but what is life if not what we think and say and express to one another on a daily basis? If you’re just regurgitating another person’s reality, where is your own life? Who are you?