Thursday, May 28, 2015

Secondhand News

I love reading news online. 

In college, I subscribed to the local newspaper.  I did the same throughout grad school.  When I travel, I love getting the local news from whatever local rag there is.  There is considerable joy in reading about the decor from this month's meeting of the local Women's Bridge Club or the weekly Woodmen of the World lodge minutes.  I even once saw a picture of an upside down car with the caption "Wreckless driving".

Nothing gives you the flavor of a home town than the local paper.

But there is seldom any real news worth reading.

So I go online for my media.  I try to get as balanced a diet of liberal and conservative articles, and I don't mind tracking down the original sources, to see where the information comes from. I read background information. I try to be aware of my own biases, and question the authority of anything I read.

I will read stories from Mother Jones, and always know that the bias is extremely liberal.  I will read stories from Fox News, and know that the slant is decidedly conservative.  I love delving into the background, and challenging the assumptions, and seeing if the conclusions hold water.

What is interesting to me is that I am relying more and more on my friends to point me in the direction of news.  From FB links to e-mailed stories, my friends have essentially acted as my news filter.

My ultra-conservative friends will send me ridiculous stuff. So will my uber-liberal friends.  Every conspiracy story about how the government is conspiring to take my gnus (or maybe I have misunderstood - it might be yaks they are after) is balanced by a story of how 75% of all children in a remote Mexican village have died from being vaccinated. Or how GMOs are causing cancer and autism.

Here is the fun part.  I love getting my news that way.  I love seeing the causes that my friends care about.  If I relied on the New York Times or the New Orleans Advocate (I am still boycotting the SomeTimes-Pic), I would not know anything about cis-gender. I would not be reading articles about yoga.  (Seriously.  I mean, I would NEVER read those articles). I would miss out on archaeological discoveries, I would have no idea what nun prayer has in common with psychedelic drugs, and I would not have access to the wide variety of music that my friends suggest.

But because my friends are broad minded and deep thinkers, I get the chance to share in what they are thinking. I get to engage in debates with people who are passionate, and watch what happens when their assumptions are challenged. By clicking on the like/comment/share box, I enter into a world of discussion with people who know more and care deeply about things.  And if I disagree, that is OK.  I can either concede, disengage, or dive in, headlong.  My friends - the ones who know and love me - love that.

And yes.  I also get to hear how excited they are that the Braves have a good chance at the pennant this season.  Well, at least for a while, I get to hear that.

I understand the reluctance to use social media.  I do.  I was guilty of sending Farmville invites for a while.  I have lost a little too much time for my comfort staring at a Words With Friends screen, looking for the elusive word.  And I am more than just a little addicted to that 'electronic cuddle' of checking to see that some funny response I posted got a thumbs up.

But I also am very grateful that my secondhand news broadens my world.  That it pushes me to learn things that my friends care about.  That it makes me more empathetic to causes I did not know existed.

To all of you who serve as my media filter:  Thank you.  You guys rock.



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