Information drives opinions.
Opinions drive actions.
The actions can be very obvious–like taking a political stance, voting for a party you prefer, even identifying yourself as a group of people based on some form of identity. Or they could be much more subtle. You may not even notice the opinions you’re developing in the back of your head until one day you might find yourself giving direction to your children. I use this example to illustrate the fact that everyone has a stance on everything. Some are more aware, others more expressive than others. Some may be nurturing thoughts they didn’t realize they had and will one day hand it down to their children, should they choose to have any. Even not taking a stance on something is a stance in itself. The important thing to ask is: where did that come from?
It is a huge pet peeve of mine when people aggressively share/reblog content on Facebook, for example. I have unsubscribed to every Facebook friend who shares and shares and reshares videos and posts which are quick reads, a message handed to you in a bold and easy punchline/headline, perfect for going viral. There have been so many instances when a friend or family member reports to me in complete disgust what is happening in Syria, or Pakistan, or the United States– a dramatic retelling of some post they saw that day. 90% of the time when I look at what exactly happened, it is far, far from the truth. We are playing Chinese Whispers with the news. The irony is, the news isn’t even completely accurate to begin with. We are playing Chinese Whispers and the first word that was spoken was Fork instead of Stork. By the time it reaches the last person it will be Pork and we will be confidently and incorrectly complaining about a lack of Islamic representation. So we need to just pause and take a moment and ask does this come from Virgin Radio Lebanon? Does it come from UNILAD?
You should ask yourself two questions when taking in content: where is this coming from? What was the motive behind publishing this content? Most, if not all media serves an agenda. Something can be purely artistic in nature, therefore not deliberate in its agenda, but art reflects the artist. I am not saying we should dismiss everything we read or see because we disagree with the owner of the content. Not at all. UNILAD can be absolutely hilarious. But is it the best place to develop your socio-political opinions? Probably not. Moreover, a lot of these collaborative channels are the the voice of many people, all different, all working towards getting views and reads. Nothing wrong with that. We just need to be aware of it.
I read a lot. All the time. I read when I’m doing other things (not a good thing). If I’m talking to you, I’m probably reading something on my phone. About two years ago I realized my mind was becoming a complete mess of the different channels that were feeding into the content in my head. I decided to narrow down what I would read on a daily basis and pick four-five publications and stick to them. Two years in and I feel much more informed than I ever did when I was reading from a wide source of material, more comfortable of my knowledge and my opinions.
I read the following publications daily:
The New York Times
The New Yorker
And the following publications bi-weekly:
Into The Gloss
The Paris Review
It is important to note that I don’t always agree with what I read. But now I have an understanding of who is writing it, what their views tend to be (so-and-so tends to sway to the right… so of course this article was heavily against so-and-so). It is just as important to read ideas you don’t agree with as it is to read ideas you agree with. But this came for me afterwards. I started reading not knowing what my opinions were at all, and in order to develop them, I needed to understand well what and who was feeding them. In our 20s we graduate from what we were told is right by our parents and teachers into independent, objective thought. This is much more difficult than it seems. I find myself always searching for those pure moments when I am completely un-influenced by anyone or anything, knowing the thoughts will be just mine. I try to make decisions on airplanes because I feel suspended in time and space and somewhere between the stale meals and 8-9 episodes of Black-ish, my thoughts become very clear.
In an early episode of Girls, Jessa gives Hannah some simple but brilliant advice: “Just read the newspaper. Just read one newspaper.”
If you are anything like me–fairly uninformed but quietly curious, then I would say this is the best place to start. Just read the newspaper. One newspaper.