OPINION – Tell me what makes you angry, and chances are, I can tell you where you’ve been getting your information.
It’s not that you’ve become predictable or that I possess any kind of supernatural power to read minds as some kind of parlor trick. It’s just that a certain uniformity tends to emerge when people are feeding from the same trough of mass-produced drama.
Case in point: Did you hear the latest outrage over what the president recently tweeted?
If your answer is anything other than “What exactly does that have to do with my life?” chances are pretty good that you’ve been feeding at the trough yourself.
There’s a world of difference between being informed and simply being entertained or fixated with what someone else is feeding us. This is particularly true when we willingly give our attention to things that have zero effect on our lives until we choose to give them our attention.
Seriously, how much productive time has been wasted by otherwise decent people who simply can’t resist the urge to weigh in on the latest fabricated outrage?
It’s as if we’re becoming a nation of trained seals who will clap our flippers and bark on cue to whatever is shown to us.
A friend who works in assisted living recently related to me the frustration he feels when he’s sitting in a room with a dying man and the TV is left on to spew its nonsensical blather. In this case, he’s not even talking about the news shows but rather about ESPN and its ability to make the inane appear important.
I tend to agree with his assessment that 99 percent of what is being talked about in the mass media is stuff that doesn’t really matter at all in the long run.
I don’t mean to come off like the sanctimonious vegan who also does CrossFit and just can’t refrain from telling everyone how great it is. At the same time, I just can’t help but wonder if we’re not squandering opportunities to focus on things that will matter to us in the long run.
I recently spent time with my father-in-law who is fighting liver cancer, and I’ve been staying with a dear family who unexpectedly lost their only daughter. These experiences have served to clarify for me what truly matters.
The amount of time we each have to focus on meaningful things like life and legacy is likely much shorter than we think. Carrying on about stuff that in no way personally affects us is a tragic misallocation of our attention and our efforts.
Connor Boyack of Libertas Institute zeroed in on the missed opportunity when he noted:
There’s an inverse relationship between the average American’s focus and the ability that person has to effect any change. For example, most people are heavily distracted by D.C. and yet can do statistically nothing about the events occurring there. And yet these people are completely unaware about things happening within their sphere of influence that they could absolutely change.
His point is on target.
Our mass media tends to focus on things that serve its interests, not ours. It reports only on the things its members consider to be worthy of our attention. Notice how often politics and the interests of the political class are presented as if they are the most important things in our world.
That’s why so many people are eager to do battle on social media over the president’s tweets yet cannot tell you what’s happening where they live.
Chances are, the most important things are found within our sphere of influence. This means that we cannot afford to become distracted or brainwashed into thinking that what’s important to mass media should be just as important to us.
It’s easier to parrot the same rehashed misinformation others are discussing than to apply ourselves in a way that actively addresses authentic problems where we live. We must be determined to become more than pliant complainers.
Instead we must be willing to actively stand and build where we have influence.
To this end, Boyack offers an imminently workable solution:
Honestly, can you imagine what America would be like if everybody focused on their community rather than shaking their fists at a computer screen or venting on Facebook? Imagine if slacktivism became activism. Just think of what could be done if we rolled up our sleeves and did something about the problems around us.
Too many good people are bickering about things and people that do not deserve the stature or attention they are given. Their energy is being diverted into meaningless battles that render them ineffective agents of change.
If that’s how we choose to use our precious time, talents and passions, we don’t deserve to be a free and prosperous people.
Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events viewed through the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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