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Read The Change You Want to See in The World.

I have talked about reading fiction, reading nonfiction, reading genres, reading large and reading small. Today, I want to talk about reading VERY small. Articles, specifically.

People flip through articles, like this one, with regularity on their phones and computers rarely thinking about the impact what you read has on the world. that’s right, the world. I don’t want to just talk about the effect it has on you, though that is important too.

Be the change you wish to see

One of my favorite quotes is attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Now many people will discount the quote or the man because he made mistakes both in his youth and in his adulthood. Who is without sin though right? We should always be careful not to throw the wisdom out with the folly. The idea that the only guarantee you have that a certain change will be imparted to the world, is to try and be that change, is not a bad idea.

What does this have to do with reading articles?

Let’s talk about “The Algorithm.”

I am not referencing a specific single algorithm but instead the notion of big data algorithms that drive everything we see and do online. An example will serve best to show the point.

There are few headline news articles about circus dogs in tutus in my news feed. I use several different sources for my data and none of them have ever shown one to me. I don’t know of any major news network, whatever that means in the age of modern personalized media, who do so either.

This is both sides of “The Algorithm,” at play. My news feeds, which track what I open, how long I look at it, how far though an article I make it and what, if any, ads I click in those articles, know that you won’t catch my attention with dancing pink-frill covered dogs. The mass audience appeal of network news knows that few people have a strong interest in this either, so they also do not market to it.

In both cases my preference, the group preference, for what is read has driven the industry at large toward a behavior. I am one small pebble in a very large deep river, but I am still a small diversion to the great course. Which brings us to you. All of you. You are a pebble too. Just as a sand bag can stop the flow of Mississippi flooding, we at large can impact the world with what we chose to read.

Articles have a direction they lean, and a point to make. They have an intention to grab attention, and little grabs attention like bad news. We are genetically hardwired from years of survival in a harsher world to focus on, and pay attention to the bad things in the world. You can only be so happy, but you can be very dead, as the brain thinks to itself. An article pops up about how shooters are running rampant and how to survive mass attacks? Better read up, I might survive. That read drives your brain into a heightened state of fight or flight, bad for you by the way, but it also tells the news feeds that THIS is what we want to hear about. It is a pebble added to divert the flow.

Every article that you read from “The left,” which says the right are raging idiots who are coming for your freedoms, fuels a general state of divide. Every article that you read from “The right,” which calls the left fascist pushes the same divide from the other spectrum.

This is not to say we shouldn’t read deep and complicated, even sometimes divisive material. We should. But deep material and slinging insults are very different. There is nothing wrong with debate, and civilized discourse, but is that what we are supporting in a 25 second video or a 300-word spit take piece?

What we read can be the change we want to see in the world. If you want news to be good news, seek out good news. Read good news. Support good news. Support constructive web pages, that aim to push everyone forward higher and build one another up. Help give a voice to people who are helping others and enabling the world around them instead of fear mongering, or tearing it down.

Here are some sights to get you started.

Try an intellectual detox. Stop reading things that make you angry, stop encouraging only the yelling, and start trying to find the good out there to read. Drive the algorithm. It’s up to all of us.

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Anna Varlese
Anna Varlese
Oct 08, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

It's easy to forget that our choices as consumers affect the future market for the goods and services (and entertainment). Thanks for the reminder.

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