In this post-truth era of “a latest study finds X and you should be afraid or shocked”, many pieces of news and social posts are angled at fear, destruction and division. It’s up to us to find perspective. I’m not saying ignore or put our heads in the sand. I’m just wondering if every day or moment being some sort of crisis may not necessarily be true. There’s a bigger picture. A larger context. There’s a perspective in things and it’s not going to be given to us. We have to fight for it. Culture today is changing to throw gas on things that could be microscopic. We need perspective to sort things out.
Recent news this past winter has been focused on a flu epidemic. All of the morning shows were talking about hospitals being shut down because there are too many sick people. I asked about my local hospital. Not overcrowded. I haven’t seen any local news affirming this national issue. Turns out if you take a look at the CDC’s website, you can graph multiple years on top of each other and see that the needle is barely moving more than in the past five years. Yes it’s up a bit. But not to the degree of apocalyptic proportions that our news media wants me to believe this morning. Tomorrow there will be another study or story that will aim to grasp for my attention and perspective. Today it’s the flu.
It seemed like last year was one of the worst ever. Didn’t you think so? So much division. North Korea. Presidential election. Russia. The president on Twitter. Roy Moore. Natural disasters. Las Vegas. Prince and David Bowie passing away. John Oliver recapped 2016 in hilarious fashion here:
But Wait, What? Things aren’t that bad?
Facts, Not Opinions
Here are some facts you may have missed last year:
- In 2016, UNAIDS revealed that new HIV infections among children have declined by 50 percent since 2010, and that AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 45 percent since 2005.
- The World Health Organisation revealed in May 2016 that life expectancy — that brilliant, basic measurement of how mankind is doing in terms of food production, medicine and technology — has increased by five years since 2000
- Life expectancy of someone living in Africa has gone up by 9.4 years since 2000.
- In March 2016 it was revealed that seven countries — China, Gambia, Ghana, Iran, Morocco, Myanmar and Oman — have eliminated trachoma, a bacterial infection of the eye that causes irreversible blindness. That’s billions of people whose sight has been protected, guaranteed, by humanity’s medical brilliance.
- Crime rates feel like they are sharply increased, but statsistis prove that they’re pretty much flatlined for the past few years.
- Teen pregnancy is at an all time low in the past decade.
- Homicide is down
- Suicide is down
- Crime is down
That all happened last year but I didn’t feel like there was much of anything good that happened. The challenge isn’t to shut down, but to engage. And to question what are we filling our minds with?
Last year the Bachelorette featured Chad. He was crazy. The producers totally put him on there for ratings. I’m not a fan of the Bachelor or Bachelorette. But I watch them with my wife as a sign of support. A few episodes in, I found myself becoming angry after every episode. I was so frustrated with that guy. Finally, I said to Micki, I’ve gotta stop watching that. It’s literally making me angry. Changing my mood.
So in this era of an overabundance of information, the question becomes: What am I filling my mind with? Is it good stuff? Is it true stuff? I have a friend who is very upset about the political climate and regularly wants to talk about the problems. Conversations are about how divided we are politically and who’s on what side. This person spends a lot of time reading about it, digesting it, thinking and posting. I wonder sometimes if politics is that person’s version of Chad. What’s your Chad? Do you know?
Here’s some simple steps I’m trying and would suggest you do the same:
- Evaluate what you’re consuming. Social media. TV. Everything. Maybe even chart it.
- Confess you may have a view that’s slanted and you want to do something about it.
- Actively choose to look through the world through a different lens. Get strategic.
- Make decided changes to what you consume and how much.
- Be diligent and guard your mind as you make changes.
How To Get A New Lens
- Acknowledge when you watch, tweet, consume and post and take a pause. The next time there’s a tweet or story that’s sensational, fight the urge to jump on the bandwagon and share on Facebook and simply seek for the truth in it.
- Invest time seeking perspective instead of validation. We’re always looking for people to support our version of truth. Someone wise once said, “Seek to understand, not be understood.” Re-allocate your validation time to truth time. Research. Look for balance. Perspective usually comes from seeking opinions different from yours.
I still get my news from trusted sources. But I’m finding myself not watching CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News anymore. It’s no longer news, but opinion and agenda. Many of the formats for our TV news has also begun to shift this way. To combat this, I started to watch a news show with a different lens. CBS Sunday Morning. Maybe to combat all of the negative and fear-based news we consistently see on TV, online and on Twitter, we could stand to balance it with a little good news. Like this story from one of my favorite reporters, Steve Hartman. Steve spends the majority of his time telling stories about the good things that are happening. This is one of my recent favorites: