To say that things got ugly in 2016 is a gross understatement. As an American traveling and living abroad, I've been able to watch what's happened to my country from a distance.
About 3 years ago, things seemed to really start heating up...and each new week brought another layer of anger, violence, and hatred to fuel the fire.
This was not the country I knew. I was watching a trainwreck...a ticking time bomb. It was embarrassing. The worst part is that it started happening in other countries as well. Yes, this divisive "us vs. them" mentality seemed to be infecting the rest of the world.
2016 was the year we all became extremists. It was the year I found myself fleeing both sides of the political landscape. It was the year I realized that without a doubt, across the world, our societies had become sick...or at least they appeared that way.
What happened? Are things really this bad??
No, I don't think so. I believe we only perceive things to be this bad because of the information we are constantly bombarded with. It's super divisive, and practically all negative, all the time.
By now, we all know that the media tends to sensationalize things. After all, negative news keeps our attention, and our attention brings the advertising dollars. As for the divisiveness, unfortunately, there is also good money to be made off keeping us angry and divided.
The NEW media...
What many people don't realize is that WE have become the media. Yes, our faith in mainstream media is crumbling, and we now have the ability to publish and share whatever we want. We can start our own "media", and grow our own audiences. More and more, we get our information from each other on social media - not from the papers or the news.
So that should be a good thing, right? Well...not necessarily.
Journalistic Integrity - & Fake News
First, there is the issue of quality control and/or fake news. This is especially dangerous when you consider that virtually anyone can become a propagandist now. Of course, to make matters worse, the sheer volume of information makes it difficult to discern what is credible and what is not. It's just exhausting.
Second, I'm not following any mainstream media outlets, yet 90% of what I'm seeing in my newsfeed is still a never-ending stream of death, destruction, and terrorism. The advertising dollars are out of the equation, so why are we still spreading all the tragedy?
Life In The Age of Pissed Off Narcissists
I was born just before the Millennials showed up...and as hard as this may be to believe, it was a time when it wasn't socially acceptable to take and share photos of yourself in public...not unless you were Michael Jackson or something. Haha. Back then, people would tease you if you even glanced at yourself in the mirror as you walked by.
Clearly we live in a different world now. Paris Hilton started normalizing narcissism back in 2003, and the widespread use of iphones and Facebook by 2007 helped finish the job (for those wondering who Paris Hilton is, she was yesterday's Kim Kardashian...or should I say Kylie Jenner? ).
These days, "selfies" are barely even considered narcissistic at all.
By 2015, outrage had joined the fray...and the "outrage mob" quickly took center stage. People became offended by pretty much everything...pretty much all the time. This enabled attention-seekers to reach a whole new level of the game.
I'm not saying that ALL outrage is misplaced, but I do think it has become a powerful tool for those who want attention.
Now, by the end of 2016, online culture seems to have completely lost its mind. There is so much division between the political parties in my country that both sides have accused the other of treason. Treason! Sadly, many others countries are heading (or have headed) in the same direction.
Even the most positive and uplifting articles are not spared from angry, toxic trolling in the comments. They target viral content and quickly become contradictory, defensive, or argumentative...any of which (unfortunately) gets them the attention they crave.
Lives Full of Apps...and Isolation.
Researchers are finding that we are hopelessly addicted to both our smartphones and social media. This dependence has left many of us anxious and depressed.
Also, even though the Internet was supposed to "bring the world together", we are perhaps more disconnected from each other than ever.
In this modern, disjointed world, we are desperate for attention. Each of us wants to be seen as someone of worth...with something to offer society. Sadly, the easiest way to get attention and start a conversation is to share something negative and/or shocking online.
With enough media, friends and family also dumping doom into our newsfeeds, we will inevitably see the world as a scary, messed up place.
The thing is, it's not. Our perception of the world is not accurate. In my years of exploring other countries, I can tell you that as a whole, humanity is much better off than you might think. It's just hard to see when we spend our lives staring at screens. We begin to drown in a sea of despair.
The absolute worst things going on in the world are cherry-picked, packaged up for us, and shoved down our throats on a daily basis...and we keep lining up for more.
We end up with a dramatically skewed perception of our beautiful and diverse world.
I know it's a bit unconventional for a blogger to encourage you to unplug from social media, but I highly suggest it! For me, engaging with the "real world" through my photography is endlessly rewarding. Our offline passions can help keep us balanced and sane.
Any Publicity is Good Publicity...
People seem to have forgotten a lot of those old expressions...classics like: "Any publicity is good publicity".
2016 has shown us that politicians can be as crude and tasteless as possible, and by laughing at them on social media afterward, we might be giving them the "free publicity" needed to rocket them to the top. Our "negative attention" is still making them stronger. It's "brand recognition"...and we are falling for it - hook, line, and sinker.
At this rate, no matter what side of the fence they're on, all our future politicians could be nothing more than cheap, narcissistic entertainers...saying and doing whatever they can to stay in the headlines–and keep us talking about them. Is that the kind of world we want to live in?
Good or bad, The Beast only wants one thing:
For the good of humanity, we must learn how to stop feeding THE BEAST.
We can't let them drive us apart. We don't have to agree, but let's be respectful and simply listen to each other.
Let's lick our wounds and learn from our mistakes.
Let's wash the stench of 2016 off us.
Let's do 2017 right.
- Nathan Allen
"Like" my page below if you want to follow along...and for the record, I was equally frustrated with both political parties during the last election...and I'm a
Millennial at heart:) - Nathan
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