The Failure of News

I found myself thinking today, “Why is every news platform so whiny and scared about a movie?” Article after article, I watched most mainstream news channels let their writers publish blogs about how “dangerous” an upcoming movie is, and how shameful it is for a large cinema company to allow the screening of it. Excuse me, but last I heard, there have been hundreds of R-rated movies allowed in theatres, so what makes this any different? I answered myself before finishing my sentence–it’s because it doesn’t promote the mainstream view. Because the movie has an opposing perspective on a “hot” topic, it is deemed “dangerous” by news outlets. This is ridiculous, because opposing perspectives are natural and make us challenge our preconceptions and think differently. If we’re not allowed to view material that challenges the mainstream view, isn’t that kind of brainwashing?

Also, why is there so much attention focused on a movie that’s only going to be screened for a few days, in a few theatres, when there are wars, sex trafficking, violence, poverty, all kinds of real injustice happening in the world right now? But a huge focus this week has been on a movie that might “offend” some people. How about we allow people the chance to see it if they want to and judge for themselves. (For real reviews from actual people who saw the movie, click here.)

News is supposed to be objective, not biased, emotionally charged, and written to evoke a certain belief. People should be able to read the news, have safe conversations with each other, and make up their own minds about where they stand. Almost every time I see a news article online about a political or social topic, it’s full of keywords that aren’t meant to share the truth, but help the company get more views and rank higher on Google than their competitors, while they’re all writing the same story. It’s hotter to write about controversial topics than what’s actually happening in the world, but we’re basically being fed garbage so news companies can make more money. As a result, this biased news nonsense makes us see anyone who disagrees with us as our enemy. It’s shaping the way we think and turning people against each other. Entertainment news is poison.

Frankly, I’m ashamed of where journalism has turned and I’m tired of the lazy, one-sided news and negativity. I’m also annoyed that I cannot escape these messages because social media has found purpose (and profit) in sharing these posts and causes despite my disinterest. Who decides what is acceptable and what isn’t? Isn’t tolerance, by definition, the ability and willingness to consider other ideas or actions that we don’t agree with? Or, does that only go one way?

On the bright side, there are other sources of news. International news may prove to be less biased and shed light on what’s happening outside of our bubble. Sources like the Good News Network has made it their mission to share encouraging, positive, uplifting stories.

News isn’t all bad, but there’s a lot of trash getting published online. My encouragement is for us to take a step back every time we read something online, and think, “What perspective is this story coming from? Does this article have bias? Does it reflect my personal views or someone I know? Is it genuine and true? Does it matter in the grand scheme of things?” Or, we can shrug our shoulders, close the tab, and move on.

A Speech to Millenials, From a Millenial, About Social Media

I’m going to talk a lot today. #SorryNotSorry

It’s clear the world has lost its way. People are upset, angry, frustrated, exasperated, disappointed, distraught, oppressed, offended, wounded, hurting, apathetic, passionate, etc. Something is wrong. When social media became an outlet for news, everything went downhill. I was a Journalism student so I know how effective social media is for spreading ideas and stories. In fact, I’m about to use it now just to tell you what I think. (The irony…)

Before Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr we had two main ways to find out about world issues: newspapers and broadcasts (either on television or radio). Most news, if not all, was thoroughly investigated before it was published, and journalists tried to sift through the opinions and biases to share what goes on objectively. But lately, that’s not what people see the most. News is spreading through hashtags and viral video rants, which get people riled up instead of informed on current issues. Additionally, even the media is paid to feature certain stories that get people riled up about certain causes or specific events happening in the world. It’s nearly unavoidable. As soon as I turn on the news, I’m already getting heartbroken over what I hear. And maybe I should be upset, but social media takes it to another level, causing more division and hate than spreading awareness.

I’m not saying social media itself is bad. Thanks to Facebook I get to talk to my grandma every day. Thanks to Instagram I get to see pictures of places around the world I would like to visit someday. Thanks to Twitter I get to see updates from my favourite bands. Thanks to YouTube I learned how to appreciate and take care of my curly hair. Social media itself isn’t bad; it’s the abuse of it to amplify bad news and encourage us to take biased positions. The barrage of posts online is overloading us with one-sided ideas and social media operates to make us see posts like the ones we’re interested in, and that further hinders our objectivity.

This information overload also has the opposite effect on us by desensitizing us. We hear so many things that stories often lose their impact or we choose not to care. There’s too much information. Scroll down Facebook for just two minutes and you’ll experience the dull hum of apathy. If you hate a post you’ll skip it or write a comment. If you like it you’ll… like it. And then move on. Too easy. We are complacent because we know too much. And we don’t care enough because our attention spans are shorter than that of a goldfish. And we don’t know the truth because we only hear opinions.

We need to start with ourselves. We are the current and upcoming generation of parents, educators, scientists, leaders, journalists, inventors, public speakers, filmmakers, musicians and politicians. It’s our job to make things better for the next generation. It’s our job to care. Unfortunately there’s an overwhelming amount of 20-something year olds who aren’t focused on developing their character for the responsibilities that are necessary in adulthood. It shocks me to see that people are still engrossed in celebrity gossip and Internet trends instead of paying attention to what is happening our world. We should be listening. People older than us despise our carelessness and people younger than us don’t respect us. This should deeply concern us.

The problems in this world are too tremendous for us to understand or deal with by using the Internet, and maybe it’s not our job to set fires to get people over-stimulated. Look at what it’s already done. Maybe our job is to comfort those who have been treated unjustly. Maybe our job is to take on positions where we can influence people to be more sensitive, understanding, considerate. Maybe a compassionate approach is more effective than an aggressive one. This isn’t possible if we’re watching the world through a palm-sized screen.

We have to put down our phones, have a conversation, talk to each other, build face-to-face relationships and understand each other’s concerns so we can comfort each other. And when we do raise our voices it should come from a place of concern and love as we stand up for the voiceless and the ignored, not from a place of deeply rooted hatred, revenge and disgust.

So what do you think? Should we repeat the same mistakes for another hundred years?

When we’re united we’ll be deeply saddened when we hear about every death.
It’ll cause us to have mututal respect.
It’ll cause us to seek the real issues at hand because the right to live is always more important than the right to bear arms.
It’ll cause us to keep those in power accountable, and well-trained.
It’ll cause us to be more patient and give more grace to the whole group when a select few are viscious and unkind.
It’ll cause us to forgive instead of seeking revenge and causing a chain reaction.
And one by one we’ll make the world a better place.

If we change how we think and teach others to do the same, it’ll be a rainy evening one day in 2030 and we’ll be driving home listening to the news and smile as we hear about the good things happening in the world. Because we stopped to care.

Why We Must Be Accountable

The Dramatic Shift

I’ve come to notice our world is shifting in how it uses language and what it defines as truth. Present day mentality concerning our identity as individuals (formerly mankind, which emphasizes plurality) is we should all be accepted for who we are, our beliefs should be tolerated and the world needs to change to suit us. This would be an excellent mentality if every individual were the same, but we live in a world where we all have unique traits, qualities and characteristics that make us special. This idea of absolute tolerance and acceptance doesn’t encourage self-improvement as much as it encourages self-promotion and the desperate fight for our personal rights.

To an extent, I agree with human rights. I like the idea that no matter who you are you have the basic human right to food, a home, clothes, running water, a job, kindness and respect. But over here in the developed world we have taken this fight for rights to an extreme level. As a culture we have been so bombarded by new labels that allow us to define or redefine ourselves, despite our previous understandings of self, our biological makeup and despite the age-old definitions of marriage, family and gender roles. We have manipulated rights so certain groups’ rights come before another’s. This new abuse of language has confused our generation and is distracting us from what makes life full of meaning, purpose and value.

Instead of striving toward achieving goals, which would lead us to a bright future, we focus on living in the moment without regard for consequence. The particular area I want to discuss is the goal of self-improvement. It has all been but demolished from our society’s values.

Changed Values

What we believe is fundamental to how we define ourselves. If you believe you are worthless, you will live a life of hesitation, regret, disappointment, avoidance and insecurity. On the contrary, if you believe you are valuable you will live a life of careful decision making, hope, willingness, goal setting and achievements. And here is where the problem lies: we don’t believe in the things we used to. Many people of present day society have abandoned traditional thought and have been sucked into trendy and vague progressive ideals. As a result, we care more about what we look like, what we have, and what we (supposedly) deserve, than what we are responsible for, and what impact we have on others.

Being Responsible for More than Ourselves

Responsibility is a huge aspect of society that is slipping between the cracks of so-called “rights.” Instead of being responsible for the well-being of others, we fight for what we think is best for ourselves… it’s selfish. Relationships are often perceived as a place where we can have our needs fulfilled, instead of a place where we enter a lifelong commitment with a mutual purpose, grounded in love. Child raising is viewed by some adults in their 20s and 30s as a burden beside their career or personal goals, instead of a life changing opportunity and calling to parent. Our lack of contentment with the money we make for the work we do has made us ungrateful and bitter despite the fact that we live in the wealthiest part of the world. We are so focused on making life good for ourselves… why? I think one reason is because we have forgotten that our lives are temporary. We have too many comforts in the physical state of our life, and now the progressive agenda is to make us comfortable in our ego so we forget about death and consequence and live lives without accountability.

Be Accountable to Ourselves and Others

I believe when we take the time to look at ourselves honestly, or accept criticism from others as a genuine perception of ourselves, we can find ways to solve those problems and rise above them. If we do away with the distractions of entertaining news, trends and social media and focus on our responsibilities as people the world will change. Isn’t that what we want? Sharing our opinions online doesn’t make much difference but being an example to the people we interact with makes a big one. And that can’t happen until we learn to be accountable.

“Get Off Your Phone!”

What is it about mobile technology that has us so hypnotized? Friends meet up at restaurants and spend more time with their eyes on the screens, than each other. We may not be interested in what is happening around us, but it doesn’t send a good message. A friend caught me doing this exact same thing, and called me out for it, so now I’m going to break down why I think being on your phone while hanging out with your friends isn’t cool. (Also to help me stay accountable!)

Selfishness?

Out of boredom we might start going through our phones, not considering that it might be disrespectful to the people around us. Most of us don’t realize how often we do this until someone points it out, but it’s not a good habit to have especially when we’re in the presence of another person. In my own experience, I’ve been annoyed with seeing groups of friends or couples at a restaurant or coffee shop on their phones, totally disengaged from each other yet all seated together. It doesn’t make sense to venture out of our homes into our social circles only to consume ourselves in tiny, lonely, palm-sized, digital worlds that allow limited room for face-to-face communication. We’ve developed a terrible habit substituting real interaction with digital convenience. We all experience this distaste for how technology steals away the attention of the people we interact with, yet we all fall victim to the contagiousness of mobile technology.

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Communication Issues

Our obsession with mobile devices prevent us from building proper communication skills. While we spend the majority of our days occupied with the fascinations of a little device, we’re unable to interact with people the way we used to before the rise of technology. We even miss out on powerful real life experiences like music concerts and performances because we’re looking at them through our phones! I do it too and I think it’s insane!

We’ve also developed shorter attention spans and impatience. When a stranger sits beside us on the bus and says “good afternoon” we’re more annoyed they’ve distracted us from achieving a high score on Candy Crush, than interested in making friendly conversation. We’re so addicted to entertainment from mobile games and social media that we don’t get enough human interaction and intimacy. We’ve created a self-involved, self-modified digital life where we are in total control of what we choose to see and what we don’t. As a result, we forget how to show respect, listen, understand, relate, empathize and use our words wisely when interacting.

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Insecurity and Intimacy

I mentioned how our obsession with our phones prevent us from engaging in human interaction and intimacy. This is a serious and common problem. One thing I’ve observed is the secrecy the online world provides. When you have a password-protected mobile device or laptop, you can keep a lot of secrets. I’ve experienced this and my obliviousness to someone’s secret life, hidden under the veils of the Internet, cost me a lot of time and caused me a lot of hurt. Life online is not on open display. It’s so easy to delete a shameful conversation or revisit a coworker’s photographs on Facebook without getting found out. Secrecy is one of the leading causes of trust issues in relationships. And as if the threat of secrecy wasn’t enough, our constant use of our phones can build a wall between us and the people we love.

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When we’re at home watching a movie with our families and we’re browsing through our phones, our body language sends signals that we’re not interested in sharing the experience with our families. Similarly, when we’re on a date, the last thing we should do is whip out our phones to start a texting conversation with our friends. It’s disrespectful and it shows the person we’re with we’re not content with their company. Nothing is wrong with checking our phones, but constantly being glued to it really holds us back from experiencing intimate and special moments. In the end, we’re the ones missing out on life.

The Solution is Simple

Okay so we admit we’re a little too hooked on our phones, so what do we do about it? I say, let’s be deliberate about not allowing it to consume all our time. If you’re not sure where to begin, here are a few suggestions:

  • Delete the apps you’re obsessed with and take a break
  • Keep your phone in your purse or pocket when you’re out on a date
  • Turn your phone on silent and keep it away from your bed when you go to sleep
  • Leave your phone in another room during family time, especially at dinner
  • Make time each week to sit together and talk, instead of just being in the same space doing different things
  •  Once a month go on a “retreat” by abandoning your phone and spending the day in nature

Becoming aware of how often and why we idle away on our phones will keep us from getting too dependent on having it as an appendage.

After all, what’s more valuable? Quality time together is much more valuable than trying to escape a moment by diving into our phones.

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A Grammar Lesson in Heroism

I was browsing one of my social media networks when I came across this image:

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If that doesn’t shock you, well. Culturally, we have drifted into a pattern of redefining terms based on our confusion of their true meanings, over-exaggeration of situations and events and embellishing things to make them seem greater than they are. We’ve created shortened invented terms like YOLO (you-only-live-once) and LOL (laugh-out-loud), which cause little harm, and use words like “clutch” to express how cool something is.

Despite the seemingly harmless recycling of words, this liberal way we (ab)use the English language has eroded our ability to define and use terms correctly and appropriately in situations when word use is vital. When we take a word like “hero” or “courage” and use it in situations where a person has made a personal decision for their own benefit, we begin to lose sight of the people who sacrifice themselves for the well-being of others. When you watch superhero movies, the heroes don’t become great because they do something out of selfish ambition, they do it for the greater good of mankind and for the safety of their communities and the world.

Here are some fundamental things heroes do:

  • Acts of selfless service
  • Accomplishes goals to build themselves up, for the purpose of benefiting others
  • Does these things despite fears or disadvantages (mental, emotional, situational or physical)
  • Rises above a challenge and becomes a greater quality person, and achieves a richer quality of life

It is overwhelmingly tragic how media has become so blind to what true heroism is. In all sense, how does this veteran’s selfless sacrifice and victory pale in comparison with the self-serving change of another celebrity? It doesn’t and it shouldn’t. Glorifying people’s self-serving actions in the name of heroism is wrong. We give too much credit where it is not due and it comes from our obsession with our own self-motivated interests and desires. Even if a person’s selfish action encourages others, we still cannot define them as heroes. Their action may have inadvertently caused inspiration, but they did what they did for themselves and no one else. That does not make a hero. It might make them brave, but we have to use our words carefully.

Call me dramatic but our privileged part of the world is becoming a lot like Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World;” blind in our self-fulfilling desire for entertainment and pleasure. We follow trends, filter our news to nonessential entertainment and gossip, and hop on causes without using our God-given common sense. The fact that I even have to write an article like this makes me realize how consumed we are in the distractions of selfish causes and how unconcerned we are to the real crises happening around the world. As the insightful author of “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” Neil Postman, wrote:

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.

An Attitude Check for Women Like Me

Women are incredible, inspiring, beautiful, nurturing, considerate, compassionate creatures. We love deeply and have the capacity to forgive after endless wrongs, whether they’re from our friends, boyfriends, husbands, siblings, parents or children. Women have emotions that run deep to the core of our being and they motivate us to make decisions and chase our goals. Our emotions are a wonderful gift from God that can be used to change lives for the better.

I’m writing this because I realize how challenging it is to continuously use this gift for good.

When Did I Get So Sassy?

I’ve never had an issue with attitude until my 20s. I was very naive and didn’t know much about the harsh reality of the world. I was pretty carefree, joyful, positive and fearless. Now I have days when I struggle to have the right attitude about the things that go on in my life. For example: I currently work as a receptionist; the typical 8-4 weekday shift. It’s not my passion or my dream career but it’s where I can gain a decent income. There are two attitudes I can have toward it:

A) I’m bitter that I studied five years and still can’t get a job in my field, I don’t make lots of money, I dread every day I have to wake up to go to work, I’m miserable and crabby about my life not being where I want it to be; or,
B) I’m thankful I have a decent paying job, I make use of my evenings and weekends to fill my life with activities, learning and fun, and I appreciate the easy, stress-free commute to and from work.

When it comes to attitudes we can be blessed or bitter; positive or negative; grateful or complaining. We can look at it in a light of hopefulness and strength or defeat and weakness.

Emotions can be a cool stream that guides our actions through love, or it can be a raging fire that destroys and hurts everyone around us. I speak from experience when I say it is challenging for a woman to make a decision completely exclusive from how she feels about it. Therefore, we have to practice the right attitude so when we are faced with choices, we don’t let our emotions cloud our judgement.

It is so sad to see women using their emotions as an excuse for mean behaviour:

“He betrayed me so I’m gonna make him jealous.”
“If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.”
“If you can’t make me happy, I’m leaving.”
“I was hurt in the past so you’d better earn my trust, or else.”
“I’m only her friend because she makes me feel better about myself, lol.”
“You’re so pretty [I’m jealous and I talk behind your back].”

I even saw a woman at the mall, screaming at her husband while her baby in the stroller was sleeping. She must have been fed up about something and exhausted from taking care of the child, but does that honestly excuse her behaviour? What long-term effect does her attitude have on her husband and the way their child will understand husband-wife relationships? It only takes a tiny pebble to cause a ripple effect, so imagine what an asteroid could do.

If we really care about how we make others feel (and I think we should), it would be wise to take time alone to reflect and ask ourselves questions like:

  • How do I feel about myself and my life?
  • How does that affect the way I communicate with others?
  • Do I have secret resentment or bitterness about something that happened in my past?
  • Where can I get help to heal from that hurt? (I would suggest sharing it with someone you trust or getting counselling if the issue is severe, praying for healing and perspective from the One who knows us better than we do, and observing self-controlled, wise, loving women.)

I see great potential in women today thanks to our increased opportunity to lead and guide. Women do have a voice and we can impact the world for the better. I challenge every woman to reflect on her attitude as a daily practice, start her mornings with a view of awareness and gratitude (not self-criticism or complaint), and pat herself on the back for every time she triumphs with kindness despite a bad mood. When we do good, God blesses us, and when we come to an understanding of His love and mercy, we can claim the confidence that identity gives us. That means trusting who God says we are and what He says we’re worth: valuable and capable of greatness. I am inspired by women who have extremely unfortunate and difficult lives, yet persevere in a positive attitude. For perspective: There is always someone in a worse situation with a better attitude.

Someday the children we raise and look after will carry on in the ways we have taught them. Let us be good examples for young women and let us impress the women before us. 🙂

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