The internet has gone a little insane lately. I have clicked and watched and read in fascination through Baltimore, Caitlyn Jenner, Charleston, and the ruling on same-sex marriage, to name a controversial few.
It has made me feel schizophrenic.
See, I grew up in a conservative Mormon family in conservative Mormon Utah, where I thought the only source of news was Fox news and the word “Democrat” was usually spoken in whispers. Then I moved to liberal Los Angeles to work in liberal Advertising, where celebrities host parties for the President of the United States and virtually every time a Republican is mentioned it is with mockery and disdain.
My Facebook feed has come to be bipolar, and over the last few months as I have scrolled through it I have been shocked at the passion and vitriol coming from both sides of my friend group. I have read many articles and comment sections and nearly lost hope for the human race.
Instead of jumping onto my own digital soapbox, I have been trying to instead absorb. I have read a lot of articles and a lot of Facebook threads, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to post on either side of any of the issues, because you know what? My feelings on most of them are a lot more complicated than I can express in a Facebook status.
It’s so strange to me the way we now consume news. It’s like this repeating cycle where:
a) something happens
b) we all pick sides
c) we post which side we’re on
d) we tell everyone on the other side that they are stupid idiots.
What if I empathize with both sides? What if I have friends who are gay and family who are Mormon? What if I like capitalism but hate guns? What if I think there is more to virtually every one of these stories than I can understand or post about on social media?
It’s like we’ve lost our freedom of speech, or at least the freedom to speak without being internet-hated. I have a gay friend who once confessed to having voted for John McCain. I was shocked.
“Wait, seriously? I didn’t even vote for John McCain!”
“I know. Don’t tell anyone.”
We were laughing about it, but still I find it ridiculous! An openly gay closet Republican.
In college, I took a lot of English classes, where we studied literature and poetry and short stories. The things we read were complex and contradictory and they made you stop and think about family relationships and human nature and social behavior. They were complex and contradictory because that is what it is to be a human.
Then I began working in advertising where the goal is to distill an entire brand message into a single tagline—a phrase, or a sentence, sometimes as simple as two or three words. Everything is boiled down to one simple idea, so that people know exactly what they’re getting. And you know what? It works. In fact it’s the only way it works. One tagline. One message. Find a niche. BUY NOW.
But the things that are happening in the news are not products. They are people. Real, complicated people, and yet we are trying to tell their stories in 140 characters or less?
I know there are many in-depth articles and interviews being shared on each issue, and I have read or watched a lot of them over the last few months. But it scares me that the more common pattern seems to be “read the headline and move on to the next.” We’ve seen it in advertising, where now instead of long form content, everything has to be “bite-sized” or “snackable.” I mean, I’m guilty of it myself—why go to CNN when my Facebook page now has a “news” section? We’re over-cluttering our brains and shortening our attention spans.
I feel like it has become a nationwide game of telephone, where news stories are being transmitted via BuzzFeed headline or Tweet or Facebook status, each side putting their own spin on it, until an issue that is complicated and nuanced becomes packaged into two distinct messages: my side versus yours.
“FOLLOWING SAME SEX MARRIAGE RULING, MAN ATTEMPTS TO MARRY MALE GOAT.”
“CHRISTIAN BIGOTS MAKE RIDICULOUS CLAIMS THAT ONLY HETEROSEXUAL COUPLES CAN CONCEIVE CHILDREN.”
We seem to have lost the grey area, and it scares me.
Because no issue is as simple as black and white. No issue is even as simple as rainbow.
I don’t know what the solution is, and I recognize that I probably sound like a naïve little girl asking, “cant’ we all just get along?” I am aware that there comes a time when people have to pick sides. Where they literally have to vote, in a Supreme Court, and the outcome of that vote will affect millions of people.
I just feel that the complexity of what’s happening in the world deserves more than a snarky Facebook status or a biting response. I wish there were more forums in which we could calmly and kindly discuss what is going on, and who knows, maybe come to some more inclusive solutions, or at least come to peacefully agree to disagree. I wish it was more okay to be in the middle, that you could take a minute to figure out your feelings, that you didn’t have to pick one of two very polarizing sides.
I suppose I do wish we could all just get along. Find some middle ground. And for that, I will be accused of preaching moral relativism.
Guess I’m just a stupid idiot!