Over a month ago I started actually reading the news. I’ve always skimmed it, but made the decision to start actively reading it – for at least an hour every, single, day.
It’s easy in the summer. I make my coffee, grab my iPhone and wander into the garden just as the sun begins to rise. Rain or shine I’m sitting outdoors reading the news.
I start with Twitter, move on to LinkedIn, then Facebook, then Instagram and finally YouTube.
At first I didn’t think anything of it. No big deal right? Reading the news. An interesting distraction.
But when you start reading across multiple platforms and thinking about what you’re reading it gets interesting.
I began spotting trends and patterns.
I noted the ebb and flow of emotional content.
The posts that flared up and began trending.
The moments that made me proud to be a man and (sadly) the many, many moments that made me shake my head in disbelief.
People act differently online and I suspect they’re emboldened by the abstraction. They say things they’d unlikely say to someone in person.
Online it’s too easy to throw out some off-hand comment and deeply offend someone. And while I appreciate you cannot control how another person interprets your actions or words, you can avoid inflammatory and unnecessarily provocative language in sensitive moments.
Free speech isn’t free of consequence.
For instance, I read about a professional who made provocative sexual comments over a decade ago on Twitter. They were in extremely poor taste at the time and ultimately realizing this, they apologized and apparently have made no such comments since.
End of story right? No. Recently those same tweets came to light and the company with whom this professional was working, fired them based on what was said over a decade ago.
This is a very tricky situation indeed. I’m not condoning the initial actions or words spoken – far from it. But I am curious what the implications of this might be moving forward.
I’ve said and done things years ago I wish I hadn’t. We all do. Fortunately I didn’t share them online! But when do we let the past remain in the past? It seems never is the becoming the new normal.
Other unsettling trends I noted include the criticism of actors (yup, people who make a living pretending to be other people) are getting slammed for not being like the people they portray – huh? A very popular actress recently stepped back from a lucrative project because of the backlash about her not actually being transgender.
What was unsettling wasn’t so much the criticism of actors but rather that people seem to have lost sight of the fact that actors play dress up and make believe for a living and to attack someone for not being an actual representation of their role just boggles my mind.
I appreciate certain groups want a platform to share their message and want more inclusion. Sadly from my month reading the posts people share on social media, I can say it’s extremely unlikely we will see that level of enlightenment any time soon. At least not in my lifetime.
Here are some other things that took up a disproportionate amount of news this past month — in no particular order:
- Trump – pretty much daily.
- Trudeau – for something he did almost 20 years ago
- Racism – seems some people feel it’s okay now???
- #MeToo – sexual assault outrage
- Food – junk and pop prevail
- Sport – world cup + any spinoff
- Celebrity hookups, breakups and new albums
- Local politics and the mudslinging
- Tesla – Thai Cave and subsequent fallout
- Thai Cave Rescue – a good news story overall
- Gun/Knife/Auto Crimes
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised the news plays out like this. It’s information that entertains. The news business is just that – a business. Social media news is not really any different … it reflects human nature and the content carries the stuff we revel in. The gritty, the dark and the distasteful and we drink it up, share it, like it and comment … even if only so we can feel momentarily superior as we go about our day and say silently to ourselves … “Oh, I’d never do that!”
But our digital footprints say otherwise …