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iStock 000007830134SmallBad stuff happens in the world – it’s going on right now.  At this moment, people are suffering, animals are suffering, and our planet is suffering. 

Mild swearing warning, but I will not be talking about any details of any distressing news.

If there was no bad news reported and no sad tales told, we could be living in ignorance of the consequences of our actions.  We could be missing out on opportunities to make a difference, to learn, to grow, to contribute.

Yes, our actions, not their actions.  I’m looking at this as us all, as a whole species, being responsible collectively for the conditions we’re living in and how we’re functioning.  But more on that in the next article.

So I guess I accept that bad news needs to be shared.

What interests me is how and why it’s shared and the intention behind each instance, and how we can use our discretion to influence the way our society deals with bad news and how we respond to it.

I saw a very cool documentary a while ago, interviewing hard core journalists about their experiences and thoughts about some of the horrendous things they had reported on.  The journalists interviewed were genuinely searching and bearing their souls looking for answers, often answers that could not ever be found, about where to draw the line, about what people needed to know and was beneficial to know, and what was going too far.  It really got me thinking.

I’m for freedom of speech.  I’m opposed to censorship (I think – I have some grey areas, I suppose like most people).  I believe in the truth being available to everyone.  I admire whistleblowers, outspoken writers and journalists, free thinkers.

I don’t admire exploitative journalism, un-necessary invasion of privacy, inaccurate or unchecked information and shallow sensationalism.

As a mother, naturally it’s also important to me to control and monitor what my kids watch on TV, see on the internet etc, and talk to them about it.  I believe we are all responsible for choosing what we consider is age appropriate for our children to be exposed to, and that we participate in our society’s efforts to create workable systems to help with this, such as ratings and programming times.  With the internet it takes more work.  Even radio can be tricky – a station I listen to does have language warnings for music, but I’m often not comfortable with my younger kids listening to some news items.

What’s amazingly cool, and you know I like to focus on the cool stuff, right, is that we have so much choice these days about how and from where we receive our information.  Because of the speed of communication available to us, censorship and propaganda are almost relics from the past.  They still go on, on a massive scale of course, but more and more information is getting through, and people are becoming more curious and discerning as they start to become aware of new sources of information available to them.

I seem to get most of my news from Facebook these days.  Not having the patience for TV advertising any more, for years we’ve just been pre-recording whatever we’re interested in watching so we can skip the ads and boring bits, pause when we need to, re-watch a bit of dialogue we missed.  So in our home, news and current affairs don’t get much of a look in – it’s comedy, movies and documentaries mostly.  We keep a stock of family friendly stuff on the main TV so we can sit together as a family, and we talk about what we’re watching.  I do sometimes come across a TV ad that I really enjoy though.  I won’t get started on my opinion of a lot of mainstream news on TV, or we’ll be here all day.  Whenever I do catch a news item on TV or the radio, I’ve nearly always already seen it on Facebook.

Anyway, being the animal loving, leftie, greenie, feminist, peace mongering personal development enthusiast that I am, I tend to get a lot of this kind of stuff on my facebook feed.  Some of it is informative, some of it usefully gives me options for choices I can make and actions I can take (what I choose to purchase or participate in, petitions to sign etc).  Some of it is a bit extreme, a bit or a lot inaccurate, speculation presented as fact, complete hoaxes and phishing, outright propaganda, some of it is accurate and true but upsetting, and some of it is upsetting but dubious as to its accuracy.

What I’m on about here, is that it’s valuable to carefully consider what we choose to like and share on Facebook, and which people and pages we choose to follow.  How graphically visual we receive our bad news is up to us – it’s a personal choice.  We don’t have to click.  If we don’t like what’s coming from a particular source, we can simply un-follow. 

Personally, I avoid vision which depicts suffering.  I feel that I can be aware of what goes on by a glance at a headline a lot of the time, and that if I see a choice available to me which makes a difference, I can make that choice, at the level I’m able or ready to at the time. 

As an example, recently there were a lot of posts (with pictures I found distressing) about hunting for Sport in Africa.  Of course I noticed them, and I was surprised this kind of thing still went on, so I suppose it served the purpose of making me aware of it.

However, the post I felt comfortable sharing, was the comment by Ricky Gervais with a picture of a wildlife photographer and the caption “take a picture not a trophy.  This is how real men shoot animals...”

So what’s the difference?  I can imagine that one might argue that it’s necessary to cause emotional upset to get the message through, that without it we can become immune to hearing the constant input of sad, bad and crazy news every day.

I’m also aware that sharing morbid, distressing information can be an un-resourceful way we sometimes employ as a way of seeking connection and/or significance.  This is where I’m on the look- out for distinctions, and question what I choose to read, watch, follow or share.

Some might argue I prefer my head in the sand, and perhaps that’s true to some extent.  I do appreciate those who offer a warning and a necessity to click through to see distressing images – this gives me the opportunity to not see what I don’t want to see, whilst still receiving the information. 

I wonder, too, at the motivation behind a lot of the comments.  It seems to me that people often just want to jump on a bandwagon for the purpose of feeling connected and significant, whilst not necessarily making any choices which would influence a positive change.  To that I say – promote what you’re for instead of what you’re against.  I heard one person describe it as “slacktivism” recently, and had a giggle.

There are big, bad, scary arseholes out there in the world doing horrendous stuff.  Some seem to be plain evil, some just incredibly stupid or ignorant.  I accept that it’s beneficial for me to be made aware of what’s going on in the world, and I’m aware that I have the ability to consciously choose how much and what I filter in and allow to take up my attention.  I choose to spend much more of my time and attention on positive stories, innovative ideas, examples of love and solutions to problems.

So I guess what I’m saying is that it’s a good idea for us all to be aware of the purpose of sharing bad news before we watch it, read it, listen to it or pass it on.  It’s important to be aware that money is often a hidden motivator behind what is being shared around – if it gets clicks, views, ratings, subscriptions etc, even if that has to be done by shocking us, distorting things, leaving most of the relevant information out or just making things up, people will use whatever gets them those results.  Whether it’s big, well known media giants or the masses of new ways people are developing of promoting businesses online, I say we question the motivation behind everything, question the source, question the facts, and even question our own motivation for being interested in whatever it is.  Do we really want to slow down and gawk at a car crash, so to speak?  Are we that bored?

So yes, we need to have an idea of what is going on in the world, an accurate one if possible.  But we don’t need to dwell on it, especially if it is not within our power to do anything about it.  If we can make more ethical choices in our lives, vote for a better option, initiate or support (by more than just clicking like and share) positive action, then great.

It’s easy to get so caught up in the sadness and badness in the world that we are missing opportunities to experience the love that’s right in front of us, and the opportunities to influence the culture in a positive way.  Culture, folks, culture.  We’re in it together.  And that’s what my next rant is about...



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