Day in and day out, I follow the news. I don’t just read it, I sometimes share stories on social media. I sometimes react to or comment on others’ posts too. And sometimes I get into discussions with people on different ends of the political spectrum. In all my years of social media activity (and boy, am I active), I’ve only unfriended someone once because of political views. And that is because I understood words of his to flat out deny Israel’s right to exist and the tone was, in my estimation, anti-Semitic as well. Afterwards, a mutual acquaintance tried to understand what happened, and I saw then as we went over it, that I might’ve misinterpreted.
I tell this because this has been a difficult news week. We’ve all seen ugliness in how people reacted to the Kavanagh nomination process. And still, even when disagreeing with opinions of fellow high school classmates, for instance, I’ve not unfriended anyone. I’ve seen many go that route or advise others to, but I cannot.
To eliminate people from my universe just because I do not agree with their views, will leave me in an insulated universe in which I am unaware of any but my own. That’s not for me. I want to understand how others think, even if I disagree with them. Sometimes, I try to correct a misconception (how I wish people would not post memes without actually searching to verify the veracity of the quotes being attributed to the people whose pictures they are written so boldly on). Sometimes I try to argue a specific point. On those rare occasions that I get acknowledgement on that narrow point (boy, how many do enjoy whataboutism and deflecting, no matter what the topic!), it feels like a pyrrhic victory, because so much else associated with the error is still believed.
I understand that people prefer to fit what goes on in the world to the narrative they carry around in their head. My theory is that it is tied to pride and self-esteem. To change tracks would be to admit they were wrong in where they were going, and heaven forbid that happen. The emperor’s new clothes and all that.
But knowing this doesn’t make it any easier.
It also does not help to know how different people’s news feeds are. Not only will mine be filled with stories from the news pages I follow, but also from articles shared by my friends and the groups I belong to, all likely similar to my world view. For me to understand what the “other” side is seeing requires a bit of effort. I can search for the stories that the memes they post relate to, and find versions of it everywhere, mostly on sites that are far from the center. (I do like Media Bias Fact Check as a way to evaluate those sites I am not familiar with. Though not scientific, I find its methodology to be consistent across the spectrum.)
This tells me that there is likely a good chance that the social media news feed of those with whom I don’t see eye to eye is far different from mine. Forget seeing things in a different light, they may not even be aware of the stories that crowd mine.
And they may not even be aware of that which fills my consciousness. It goes two ways.
With print newspapers and daily news shows no longer a thing of most people’s daily lives, the news people hear is more influenced by what they want to hear than by anything else. This is a pity because it will only lead to more and more of a disconnect.
I don’t know what others do, but I’ve also always gone to Google News for a round up of stories and sources. I keep a tab open all day when I at work, just as I do for LinkedIn, and refresh it periodically.
What do you do to ensure that the news you consume is not limited to only a few sources or only sources that are already in the camp you want to stand in? How do you broaden your view to find out what others are seeing?