The world of news, media and politics seems a bit daunting, amorphous and chaotic. In an effort to grow up a little and be more proactive in my status as a member of society, I’ve noticed an immaturity within myself: I hate politics. Kind of shocking to read from the Managing Editor of your student publication, right? Sorry, y’all.
I hated watching the news. It was always on in my household and I used to always complain, “Mom, why are we watching this? It’s so depressing.” Or “Dad, can we watch literally anything else?” And my parents would graciously answer, “Kayley, you need to know what is going on in the world.”
For most of my life, I scoffed. I would alternate between silent disagreement, an apocalyptic the-world’s-gonna-end-anyway attitude or a less-than-clever conspiracy theory about how the government was poisoning our food and water anyway, why would I trust anything they say?
Needless to say, I was ignorant and insecure about that ignorance. The world of politics is scary, and every member of society is placed directly in the crossfire between ideas, rights, parties. Which party do I belong to? Do I have to choose? Do I watch CNN or Fox News, or as some people are fond of saying, the BBC because they are “unbiased?” Can I trust that assessment?
I’m still insecure about my ability to discern what is truth in our post-truth world. It’s not easy to be a productive member of society, but it’s important. Ideas have consequences and if you live in this country, you’ll have to deal with the consequences of the actions of our government, whether you like it or not. So I’m trying to be better, to ask more questions, to be quick to listen and slow to retweet.
While I’m definitely not an expert, here are a few steps that have helped me get more involved in politics and feel more confident in discerning between truth and lie in the media.
Stop getting your news from social media. Find trustworthy news sources.
Blue check marks, clever memes and strong, emotional headlines are not always catalysts for truth. Social media permeates our culture and, in many ways, defines it; but social media should not replace good political discourse. It may take more effort and time, but it beats getting heated over non-issues because your favorite celebrity was just as uninformed as you are.
Figure out what you believe about the world.
Before you can start making informed decisions on policy, elections and the like, it is important to make sure you understand what you believe about the world. How should people operate in it? What is important in life? As a Christian, how does my worldview inform my understanding of politics?
Ask questions. Lots of questions.
It’s okay to not know something. Get comfortable with asking questions about things you don’t understand, even if it makes you sound ignorant. Talk to people you trust who understand things better than you do. Don’t be afraid to google words you don’t know, or concepts you’ve never heard of. Just ask more questions, good questions.
Don’t be afraid to be wrong. Strive to be right.
We all make mistakes, myself included. I can hop on the bandwagon of passionate Twitter rants and Facebook posts, but when you make a mistake, own up to it. The world of politics is already full of people with a high disregard for truth, but rise above it.
Strive for truth and excellence, especially in standing up for what you believe in.
Overall, don’t let insecurity about what you don’t know keep you from learning more. It’s not easy and it takes more time and effort, but we’ve all got to grow up sometime and being informed is an important part of maturity.
So though conspiracy theories are fun and the news may be depressing, putting in the extra time and effort to becoming a productive member of society is worth it. After all, Dr. Wilson keeps telling us all to change the world, right? I think this is a good place to start.