Are our online personas killing off our real-world interests? 1

News, news, news, news, news. In this day and age we are constantly consuming news. We have the feeling that we are totally up-to-date and nothing about the current on-goings in the world can escape our notice. But, if you think again, you know that this is not really the truth.  Algorithms actually rule our (online) behavior and that couldn’t be farther from being a novelty. But does this news bubble also influence our real world interests?

Constantly feeding the bubble

When on the internet, just surfing the web, checking in on our social media presences, or especially when we enjoy the perks of online shopping, we are invariably surrounded by yesterday’s choices. What we have been looking up or who we have been checking out directly influences what the internet spits up for us in the following time to come. And so our online persona develops. It is further molded into shape by our reading habits and by what we “decide” concerning our Netflix/Hulu/Facebook Watch routines.

Online vs. real persona

But do we consequently really have the chance for developing personally? Do we even recall which topics we are genuinely interested in or which fields we are authentically and enthusiastically drawn to, since we are steadily fed with more of the same? And what about topics and opinions we are emotionally invested in? To be honest – and frankly this is just an opinion piece – it is time to re-think or even re-discover our social media infested news consumption.

The following issues, which I in large parts attribute to today’s social media dominated news consumption inspired me to write this piece, just follow my thoughts here and make up your own mind:

Losing our empathy

I was wondering, if we get more and more “seen-it-all” or “hard-boiled”, because we are so over-saturated with the constant bombardment of information and/or news we are exposed to on a daily basis. Think about it – and please don’t judge me for this comment, I am trying to be bold an provocative here – who even really wants to know (or even cares) how many people are killed in which terrorist incidents in which middle eastern country?  Are we losing our empathy because it is just too much info to process? And are real information and important news simply forced out by social mining?

Fact vs. opinion

What I heard from friends, who work in the education sector, is that an increasing number of teenagers, who mostly get their news and information on their social media, have trouble distinguishing between a fact and an opinion. They are presented with all kinds of material, and are unable to detect what is fact-based and therefor “news” or what can be attributed to a personal opinion, may it be by an individual or a group. And here I am not even talking about the “fake news” maliciously and by all means intentionally making their ways into our homes, but of actual incapacity to distinguish between factual knowledge and opinion.

Blurred lines where there needn’t be.

First world news first

Have you ever thought about the fact that it is mostly first world news that dominate our news landscape? Of course, I am aware that there needs to be a local focus, but still, think about it. One very recent example made me re-examine our awareness of this first-world-focus. While the world prepared for storm Florence to hit the Carolinas of the United States, the typhon Mangkhut that cooked up almost at the same time before it catastrophically hit the Philippines was only really mentioned after its impact. Do you see what I mean?


Demand determines supply

I am well aware that there is no such thing as THE news, but I think that the only way to prevent us from further going down this slippery slope of factual decline, is to realize our powerful position. The customers’ request rules – that is true to almost all economic sectors. Therefor we need to CHOOSE a better approach to our news consumption and information gathering. We need to demand investigative and even more important reflected journalism. And we can do this by choosing to consume high quality media instead of brushing through our feeds to get more of the information we already have,  and further cement our already existing opinions, without self-reflection or the chance to reconsider due to new insights.

A self-experiment

Maybe this could even come in handy at one of the coming grey autumn days 🙂
Try to open your eyes, consciously refrain from your social media accounts for one morning and take a look out of your “news-box”. Since I don`t want you to spend all you money on newspapers, I suggest you visit your favorite Viennese Coffee house, one with a large newspaper section to borrow from. I am not at all saying that print journalism is more objective or more reliable than the online versions, but there is something about sitting down with a newspaper, that makes you (or at least it does with me) slow down. Devote your time to more than one newspaper or even deliberately get your hands on one you don’t regularly read or even never laid eyes on. Get different articles and different viewpoints, research a topic, talk about it, maybe even share it. Really delve into a subject, or, if you choose to, more than one. Doesn’t that feel empowering? Don’t you feel equipped for a more in-dept discussion than after just a quick touch at a certain topic via scrolling through various channels? Sigh, I guess so.

In my humble opinion, this is one way to get back to develop your actual persona, the one with real-world insights concerning for example social differences, objectivity about political impact or even empathy for our fellow (human) beings.

Read on.

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About Elli Kling

Elli loves nothing more than travelling the world & getting to know other cultures. She likes reading, cooking and is obsessed with japanese green tea. She has a background in communications, enjoys writing and is also part of the TEDx Communications & PR Team.

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