I was recently asked: “Where do you get your news?” There was an awkward pause before I gave a reply.
I understood that my answer might create a hostile space between the questioner and myself, depending on my response.
I like to think that I am an informed person, and that I know what’s going on in the world, yet, I felt like behind the question was the implication that wherever I got my news from, it would be suspect.
The lingering question took on a burdensome heaviness in the passage of just a few moments. I felt I was being judged.
Was there a right answer? How much did it matter, anyway?
I also wanted to be ok with the questioner. I feared that our relationship might be in jeopardy if I gave the ‘wrong’ references.
“Umm. Facebook”, I joked.
We laughed, but my uneasiness did not go away.
Actually, I begin the day with a summary of the news from The New York Times that is sent to my email. I check online throughout the day to compare the headlines from CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, and during the evening hours, I watch national network news on CBS at 5:30, followed by the Newshour with Judy Woodruff at 6:00 on public television, and later I watch some infotainment with Don Lemon during prime time (9:00) on CNN.
I look at Facebook so I can keep up with what my 800+ friends are thinking about. They have sent me to places with information not readily available from so-called traditional sources. “Thank you”.
Instagram? Not so much. Tok-tok? Never!
Then there is Google. The information highway is overloaded with material that leads me to myriad points of view, opinions, foreign (not American) perspectives, etc.
So, I wonder if my questioner thought my ‘news’ sources were incorrect?
Bad? Biased? Incomplete? Or worse, vacuous?
It used to be that disclosure and/or discussions about our religious, socioeconomic, racial, and sexual preferences kept us from being in harmony with one another.
The recent election cycle and the ongoing pandemic have offered so many more causes to divide us. And now, we have another reason for this spreading plague of human schisms: information sources.
There are so many alternative sources of information.
I know there are legions who rely on a singular religious/spiritual source for answers to life’s everyday questions, i.e., various versions of the Bible, the Quran, Buddha’s teachings, et al.
Others rely solely on secular sourcesi.e., printed, electronic and internetbased information.
More who only use a closed loop of friends, family, and/or like-minded sources for their news.
Still others seek news and opinions outside of the western news bubble, i.e., BBC World News, Al Jazeera, etc.
Who is the most informed, and more importantly, what do folk do with their information, once mined?
If knowledge and information remain in a closed loop, what good is it?
Clearly, I like to share what I think is an informed opinion with as many folks as possible, but that question about where I get my news/information has given me pause.
What do I really know about anything, really? And how do I come to know it?
I recently learned that on any given day. we receive millions of bits of information- from many sources.
In order to handle all this data, I also learned about a brain function called RAS: The Reticular Activating System which is a bundle of nerves at our brainstem that ﬁlters unnecessary information so only the important stuff gets through. The RAS also takes what you focus on and creates a ﬁlter for it, and, it seeks information that validates your beliefs.
So, there you have it. While we have the capacity to handle a lot of information, and there are a myriad number of sources, we seek what we already believe.
Then back to the original question: Where do you get your news? And more importantly, are you willing to search for something outside of your existing beliefs? Can you?
“Seek and ye shall ﬁnd.” Toniwg1@gmail.com