The Freedom to Think and Reason

Many years ago, I stopped actively watching the news. I found the focus on negativity and the desire to sensationalize events adversely affected how I felt personally and how I approached the world. Today, I choose when and how I receive the day’s events. I do not rely on one source. I do not take information, even from trusted sources and friends, as the truth until I do my own research. And most importantly, I do not allow newscasters to tell me how I should feel about the facts.

This last point is what affected me most strongly on my last visit to the United States. Whether conservative or liberal, it appears that many news sources are no longer providing facts but are focused on drumming up and feeding emotions. Many of the newscasters I watched were bent on affecting viewers’ emotions through sarcasm, fearmongering, and bias.

Many legitimate journalists are still providing objective news. This piece is not about the state of journalism. As always, my focus is on you. My fear is that many people are becoming lemmings. Believing without a doubt what they see online or in the news. Allowing their feelings, emotions, and beliefs to be dictated by a talking head. Many of us have lost our ability to freely think and reason. Because of this, many of us are also feeling sad and hopeless.

puppet on a string
Photo by Agni B on Unsplash

Choice

Upon my return to Mexico, I had coffee with a friend born in a socialist country. She understood growing up in her homeland how those around her had no choice but to watch the government-run news organization. What she could not understand was why so many American citizens, of which she is now one, did not actively choose what they watched and consumed when they had so many options.

Ask yourself, why are you watching the news source you are? Why are you choosing what you are choosing? Are you choosing a source that validates your views or helps you expand your perspective? Are you choosing multiple sources or restricting yourself to one viewpoint? Like what you eat, what you consume through your eyes and ears affects you. Are you giving yourself things that help you learn and grow, or that make you sick?

Validate

I have a personal list of news sources that I trust. But I don’t trust them blindly. I have gotten into the habit of checking at least three news sources on any critical issue. Before I trust anything I hear, it is important for me to validate and process the information.

One of the things I respect about Jewish and Islamic faiths is that they encourage their followers to question everything. It is through the debate and the discussion, that deep knowledge and faith is found. If you can not stand to listen to another’s view, if you are threatened by a different perspective, it may mean that you do not really trust what you profess to believe.

Facts Not Feelings

As a marketer for many years, I understand how to manipulate consumers through emotion. This is probably why I am so sensitive to the overt emotional manipulation occurring in many purported news sources. I can only guess if the media are doing this solely for ratings and therefore revenue, or if they are truly trying to manipulate the minds of the citizens, but either way, it saddens me that so many people are falling for it.

One of the ways we are manipulated is by framing information into extremes, absolutes, and labels. Listen for the use of “everyone,” “no one,” “always,” and “never.” These words can point to ways the source is trying to manipulate your thinking.

Another way we are manipulated is through fear. Does every story your news source share focus on the negative and difficult? Do they take it to the extreme that this means the end of life as you know it? My first recommendation is to find a source that provides facts not feelings. Another option is to balance the negative with the positive. Check out information on how people are helping people, what good has been brought into the world, and every day actively recognize the good in your life.

When you consume media, ask yourself: Is your news source giving you the facts and only the facts – or are they telling you how you should be feeling about the issues? Does what you are consuming make you feel good? Does it bring you closer to those you love or further away? Does it offer tangible solutions and actions or just make you feel angry, sad, and frustrated?  Our emotions are powerful and if they are not based in fact, they can have a negative affect on our quality of life.

It is important to be knowledgeable of the world events happening around you. It is your responsibility to use your own mind and reasoning to discern the facts and keep yourself from being manipulated.

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