Media companies need to get and keep our attention. The more people they can attract, and the longer they can hold them, the more money they can make from ads. Cable news channels, on air 24×7, know that a cheap way to maintain our attention is to make us angry and scared. A tried and true tool in their arsenal is to show people shouting at each other. If you’re spending time watching pundits fight about something you’ve already made up your mind about, then you’re not seeking enlightenment; you are wasting time viewing a spectacle. If you want to learn about an issue, I recommend that you read a couple of articles on the subject by respected publications with differing points of view (e.g., The Wall Street Journal and New York Times). Then make up your own mind. Turn off the TV and use the time you save to do something useful (like writing a personal blog that nobody reads). Or better yet, just listen to NPR’s StoryCorps. It will put you in a far better state of mind, enhancing your ability to do things that will have a positive impact on your life, not to mention the lives of people you care about.
There have been Friday mornings when I’ve pulled up to a stoplight feeling terrified that someone I know will spot me. That’s because I’m getting bleary-eyed from listing to StoryCorps. That doesn’t happen because I’m hearing about some evil “other” that’s coming to get me or take stuff from me. Quite the opposite. I’m hearing real conversations between people that reinforce my faith in the fundamental goodness of human beings. The following StoryCorps audio clip is particularly relevant to this post:
Instead of trying to get people to fight, StoryCorps aims to get people to talk and, more importantly, listen. They have ground rules like no shouting over someone. I’m going to try to reflect those rules in my own behavior (someone I respect told me that I have a habit of interrupting). It was easy to imagine, as I listened to this particular piece, an otherwise joyous holiday dinner being ruined by the father-daughter duo because they argued over one topic or another, resulting in no resolution whatsoever. I’m glad that they were able to finally just talk. I’m sure it didn’t end their political differences, but it did expose their love. It sounded like they needed that. You can get the full episode here.