Before we’ve seen something for ourselves we have this picture in our mind of what something will be like. Most of the time that picture comes from things we’ve heard and seen in the media. Whether we’ve seen things on the news or in the movies or whether we’ve read things on social media, when we haven’t seen something firsthand it’s what’s been portrayed that forms a picture in our minds.
The older I get the more I have come to recognize the danger that comes from letting the media form our view of things, especially when we are living in a day where networks are broadcasting news 24 hours a day when quite frankly there isn’t twenty-four hours of newsworthy stories happening. The result is a need to manufacture a sense of stories being newsworthy by dramatizing them and sensationalizing them in order to get viewers to tune in. Mole hills get made into mountains because frankly mountains are far more interesting to hear about. No one can just be frustrated about something because painting them as hateful is far more compelling to listen to. The more polarizing a social media post is the more viral it becomes. Leaders are pitted against leaders, countries are pitted against countries, and people end up forming biases against people they don’t even know…
I’ll admit that before I traveled to Russia last week I was really nervous about what the people would be like because of the things I’d heard in the media over the years, but I cannot adequately express how differently I feel about the people of Russia after having been there for myself and gotten to know some of them firsthand. The people I met were kind and warm and lovely and I had an amazing time getting to know them on my visit.
By that same token, when I turned on the news being played in Russia and heard some of the things being portrayed about Americans that were not an accurate description of what I know about American people form my own firsthand experience I thought to myself – no wonder people have such nervousness about one another when their entire view of one another is coming from what they’ve heard in the media. I’d been nervous because of things I’d heard about Russians and I’m sure people in Russia have been nervous because of things they’ve heard about America, when the reality is that people in both countries are AWESOME!
It made me wish everyone could have the opportunity to get to know one another firsthand because the reality is that people all over the world are awesome and we all have so much in common – We all care about our families. We all have a reverence for what our ancestors went through. We all have respect for the history of our homelands. We all want to love and be loved.
I think it’s unrealistic to think we’re going to be able to change the way the media dramatizes things, but what we CAN change is not allowing what we hear in media to form our views of people. As we hear things we can remember that ulterior motives could be driving the way many things get portrayed to us so we can recognize that and take it with a grain of salt. And we can choose not to judge people until we’ve gotten to know them firsthand. If we all do that our world will be a much nicer place and we will discover that its full of far more friends than we ever imagined we could have.
Have a beautiful day.
~Amy Rees Anderson (author of the newly released book “What Awesome Looks Like: How To Excel in Business & Life” )