In our attempt to understand how we can better our lives by being conscious consumers, we take a step back to evaluate another area of our lives where we often absentmindedly consume: Media. This means TV, Radio, Podcasts, Streamers, Newspaper, Books, Social media, etc. I have seen a major shift in media during my lifetime, a shift that has been so drastic and so quick that we are honestly unable to wrap our minds or our fragile hearts around all the changes. What was as simple as a newspaper, a book, or a radio broadcast has now turned into millions of channels, podcasts and media accounts all trying to push agendas, manipulate information and current events.
Media seems to have turned from telling a thrilling fictional story, biography or current event to sharing the same story day after day after day in order to gain money and manipulate perceptions (and no one organization or media outlet is to blame). Historically, media sources, i.e. the news, radio, tv shows, etc., were more interested in keeping entertainment and information separate, now the combination of those two has led to effects like misinformation, supporting companies products’ simply due to revenue someone might gain (sponsorships as reviews, etc.).
Just as product-based companies can manipulate you in order to sell you a product, media companies and social media accounts are vying for your attention so they can get the most views and therefore, more money. Media outlets seem to be utilizing the editorial tactic of sensationalism, the use of exciting or shocking stories at the expense of accuracy, in order to provoke public interest, in order to gain more ad revenue. Vying for attention, in this way, seems more detrimental to me, than the way in which a simple product or service based company might try to attract your attention.
With the context from above, consumers must be especially careful with information that is presented to them, because companies that were trusted for years to share current events and legitimate news are being forced to use entertainment or sensationalism to get ahead. (see note)
In our world of global information it is easy to become overwhelmed by the noise and opinions of everyone in your life, not to mention the other one thousand acquaintances on social media. We get so overwhelmed that we begin to block people we don’t agree with or who bother us enough by stepping on our precious toes. In turn, we start to control the flow of information we allow into our heads and begin creating mini echo chambers that reinforce our preconceived notions.
Rather than receiving a broad variety of opinions and ideas, it feels safer to winnow down our sphere of influence to just the people who think like us. Doing so, we start to rationalize our opinions, no matter how harmful or wrong, and anyone who dares disagree should be blocked and removed from our feed. Picking only what we want to see and hear has, undoubtedly, become a huge contributor to the polarization we see in our country. When we block what we don’t like, we start to have this sense that anyone who disagrees is wrong and they are out to destroy our way of life. We stop seeing people for who they are and view them as enemies, unintentionally starting to dehumanize them. When we stop listening and respecting others' views we fail to recognize their unique life experiences that lead them to the place that they are. In order to jump to complete dismissal, we choose to invalidate their experiences and good intentions with an ill-informed - “I know better” attitude. We don’t have to agree with someone or their life to respect them.
Despite the overwhelming number of sources and people through which we interact and gain information from, we can still wade our way through and make use of the 21st advances in information sharing. If we realize the pitfalls present in our current media sources we can start to use media again as a benefit to our everyday lives rather than being controlled by it or sacrificing our empathy towards others. We can choose media sources that are unbiased and share a regular variety of current events from local to global happenings, such as Roca News, NPR, PBS News. Individually, we should be wary of how responsible the people we allow on our social media feeds are (for instance that person that regularly shares bogus information, etc). I would argue we would all be better off without access to social media (I can only use it for my business as it stresses me out to no end!).
If you do want to maintain a feeling of connectedness to your community then pick the groups and accounts that allow for healthy dialogue and conversation. It is important to learn discernment when choosing what we allow on our screens. We want to be careful to recognize what are hateful and hurtful accounts, and what allows us to challenge what we believe in a safe and healthy atmosphere. We think we are capable of understanding everything we see and read, but the human mind can easily get overwhelmed by too much stimulation.
Being a conscious consumer of media is a tricky and honestly more difficult task than being a conscious consumer as it relates to material possessions. Yet, once we realize media consumption is leaving us stressed out and overwhelmed and that there has got to be a better way to utilize and appreciate mass media, we can then figure out what is helpful to give us a new perspective and which people don’t have an interest in truth, dialogue or sharing factual information.
Stay tuned for our next post on being a conscious consumer.