2020 has been brutal for so many reasons and in turn, has raised hot button issues that have become front and center in people’s minds. No matter what stance you’ve taken on politics, health, or climate change, it all seems to come down to a battle royale on social media. When your aunt posts a nasty meme on Facebook regarding a certain politician, you have to decide whether to let it go or roll up your sleeves and start typing angrily in her comment section. It can be exhausting. However, there is something that you might not have realized that is good about her presence: another’s opinion. It’s hard to swallow, but sometimes we need to see how others see the world to give us perspective.
Now, you do have a few other options besides being a “keyboard cowboy”. The first is, you could just not respond. I get it, it’s really hard. Another option is to block your aunt entirely, which could cause a family feud, and you have to decide if that’s wise. Another, softer option to preserve your sanity, would be to just unfollow her feed. Either way, you are removing yourself from receiving the constant flood of nonsense. But the question is: is this really what you want?
The answer is both yes and no.
The first answer, yes, is important. If you get riled up every time you see a meme that makes you want to scream, ask yourself: is this good for you? If your blood pressure goes up, if you can’t sleep at night, and if you are starting to see that person only for their political views, it may be time to bow out from seeing their content. Because we need to keep our sanity in all of this. Many of these memes are meant to be inflammatory, and they aren’t always accurate.
Here is the other side to that though. We as people living in a democracy, need to hear both sides so we can make a critically thought out decision. It is unwise to live in our own echo chambers. We all need perspective and if you only seek out the same type of people that agree with you, you just won’t get a well-rounded view. Fortunately, you don’t need your aunt for that.
Despite the war on journalism that seems to be raging through our country, most journalists, who truly believe in the power of seeking the truth, aren’t posting half-truth memes. At the end of the day they are still journalists that have sources they check, and they can show you information from both sides of the aisle.
But even journalists have unconscious bias. They are human! They try, but journalists and publications do skew to the left or the right in some way. There is something that you can do though, to both avoid your aunt and still get perspective. One company has laid out media bias, Ad Fontes Media. They provide an interactive chart that rates different news publications on their bias and reliability. So if you want perspective, you can see which publications are both reliable and which way they lean. This knowledge can help you pick news forums that cover both angles.
It’s really hard sometimes to be on social media. Maybe all we want to see are adorable pictures of family or friends but let’s face it, it can be addicting with all the drama, but the world and the world of social media have changed. So now we need to be more conscious about what we put out and what we take in. This can help stop the polarization of our country and help us engage constructively with each other, rather than relying on memes to get our point across. At the end of the day, social discourse is how we can reach a better understanding of each other and create a better future.