Be honest – when you wake up, the first thing you do is check your phone. Yes, the phone is ultimate case study for Pavlov’s dog study but instead of treats – we look for likes. Notifications. Overnight texts. What oh what did we miss?
That obsessive thinking normally gravitates us toward our social media feeds. What did I write that people agreed with? What did my friends and family post that align with what I think? Ah yes, there it is. The story I read last night that I now see my cousin in the Midwest just posted as well. It must be true and it must be right because we BOTH posted it.
All is right with the world.
Except for the fact it isn’t. Back in the day, your parents woke up and read the newspaper. They actually read it – not just skimmed salacious headlines with the greatest number of likes. While they got dressed, the morning news was on in the background. As they drove home, they flipped around the radio and listened to whatever was on the news. They didn’t have a lot to choose from.
Today, we can curate what we hear, see and absorb. That’s great but the problem is it doesn’t really lead to diversification. We only hear the news we want to hear. (Bet you’re looking for the “comments” section on this blog right around now.)
The truth is: to be a smart, well-rounded consumer of news – yes, read/watch/like the stories from the media outlets you naturally gravitate toward… then think about the outlets who OPPOSE what you and your cousin think and make a concerted effort to read those stories. You’ll likely be aggravated because it doesn’t align with what you think but really, at the end of the day – to be a truly educated consumer of news, you must read and understand BOTH sides of the story. And thanks to social media and the Internet, it is way too easy to read a story and then look at your feed and think, “What I read must be true because all of these like-minded people — who I selected to be my friends —- think just like me.”
At a public relations firm, seeing both sides is a necessary skill. It’s the job. The client will ask for a news release representing one side of the story but it’s imperative to understand and then predict what the other side will think and say.
The next time you’re at a dinner party and a loud-mouthed friend of a friend is there, opposing every single thing you say, ask which newspapers/Twitter feeds/Reddit writers he/she follows and then take out your phone and start following.
It’s time to check out the grass on the other side of the feed.