My friend and fellow award-winning author, Dete Meserve, recently made a post which resonated with me. The gist of it was that our perception is in many ways enforced by what is around us, the example she used was on Facebook. “Everywhere I turn, people are talking about “toxic” social media, that they need cleansing after reading it, that people are awful, etc.” she said. She goes on to make the case that what we see on social media is a result of our own voluntary relations, something in fact reinforced by our own tiny actions.
What we see, she says, “is directly a function of who our friends are and what posts we like.” So true. When you break down how Facebook “chooses” to show us posts, it’s all about equations, or algorithms as they’re generally called, which look at our past interactions and make decisions about what to show us based on those.
She goes on: “Maybe instead of bailing, we can each do a better job at “training” Facebook to give us more of what we’re seeking by changing who we “friend” on Facebook, what we post, and giving a like to posts that inspire us, inform us, or make our lives better. If we’re just “lurking” through Facebook (e.g. without actively engaging with it) or only engaging in the posts that make us angry, we’re only going to see the ones that make us angry and anxious. Take control of the algorithm for a few days and see what happens….”
Wow. What a fantastically simple way to understand not only how social networks really work, but also a look into how WE influence everything that shows up on our feed!
What if we extend that thinking to other aspects of life, not just social media? Afterall, the people whom we interact with offline can also impact our feelings, attitudes and perspectives. Have you ever walked into a room as happy as can be, have a conversation with someone who is typically negative and then walk away with a negative attitude? It happens all the time. By being conscious of these possibilities, we can make different choices. Perhaps we can guide conversations away from negativity, or in more extreme cases, avoid that individual altogether.
One of the greatest sources of the echo chamber of negativity, is the media in general. With profits derived directly from clicks, views, sales, etc. the media has a vested interest in getting as many of those as possible. What gets clicks? What sells issues? What gets people to turn in? Controversy. Tragedy. Crime. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. They’re selling what we’re buying. Perhaps it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps we’re buying it because we’ve been conditioned to, perhaps it’s the other way around.
Either way, as Dete pointed out. We have a choice. We have power over what we see, hear and ultimately think.
If you’re tired of the negativity, anger, rage, controversy and division, you have the power to make it stop. When you see something controversial, ignore it. Change the channel. Turn the page. Keep scrolling. Find something positive. Give it a like. Share it. Comment on it. Over time, the media at large will start selling what you’re buying.