System Overload

Truth - The world can be a scary place. It never ceases to amaze me just how drastically people's experiences can be living in the same place. I understand societies are not actually homogeneous utopias of euphoric amiability but more and more it seems the distinction between the different realities people is stark. I want to ask how can some people not know but I refrain and realize in other ways people could say the same about me. All I know for sure is that no one is getting the whole story and that context is invaluable. The system has failed so many. The system was created to benefit of some and the disenfranchisement of others (whether intentionally or as a haphazard byproduct). The system is heading towards self-destruction. This is system is overload.

"If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly."
Thomas Sowell

Media literacy is not a term I had heard prior to this week but it was used twice in passing but it is only now that I realize it's significance. Media Literacy Project defines it "as  the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media. Media literate youth and adults are better able to understand the complex messages we receive from television, radio, Internet, newspapers, magazines, books, billboards, video games, music, and all other forms of media." With the emergence of this round the clock media cycle that has us following news, happenings, and trending topic in almost every way possible, everything comes at us all at once. I am always taken aback when I see things like #SanBernadinoShooting or #ChennaiRains trending next to Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have a new baby boy. I think how patronizing is it that people have literally had their lives destroyed while we indulge in the personal lives of celebrities. Now, I understand that constant bombardment of news, which is most often than not heavy, dampening, and heartbreaking, impacts people differently. I've had friends and students say that they don't take in the news because it depresses them or they just don't have time. I think now I can rationalize that those escapist moments of frivolity in celebrity news, brand new TV episodes (but that Flash & Arrow crossover though), and random viral videos. It's about not about one or the others, but it's about finding a balance that works for you that keeps you sane but also informed.
Being on a college campus is kind of a big oxymoron because while it serves as literally an institution for knowledge, it is so apparent how much a bubble it can be. It deeply concerns me that people can not know about this major (and the measure apparently is the media) happenings because they're deep in their studies. Yes, study hard and get your training to go out and change the world but when you look up from your books you might realize that the world has drastically changed since you last engaged in it. College is both selfless and selfish at the same time. It's your time to improve yourself and get an education. It also can be a shutting off from the rest of the world, society, and relationships. If colleges were doing their due diligences students would be both engaged with their schoolwork and the environments around them. My campus continues to baffle me as we are literally in the middle of a major metropolitan area and yet still the students can sometimes be oblivious to what's around them. How can we be part of a community but also in isolation? This is not the real world. College doesn't last forever, and that's a good thing. The world may be a scary place, but it's also one of wonder, excitement, and adventure. I cannot stress getting off campus, civic engagement, and just exploring the surrounding areas, as you are able. What's the point in learning about a system if you barely interact with it? That's system overload.

This harkens back to my sentiment about different realities. This week during my staff meeting, we watched a webinar on how to support Muslim students on our campuses while all this seriously dangerous vitrolioic Islamophobia is being spewed from the media, politicians, other students, and everywhere in between. As someone who studied religion in college, Islamophobia used to bother me as a term that was meant to convey discrimination against people of the Islamic faith. In these times more than ever the phobia portion is more accurate than ever. People are afraid. I mean absolutely terrified, mortified, and petrified. I usually try to validate feelings but this one is nothing more than fear mongered irrationality. The logic behind it is incorrect. I'd accept it as venerable (but it'd still be oppressive and wrong) if people were also afraid, persecuting, and threatening the lives of other groups accused of the same. This outlier, lone wolf, isolated incident nonsense is purely ridiculous. One person does not define a whole group but available bias says otherwise. If all you know about an identity is that every time you hear about it, it's always negative, then of course you adopt those notions. You have to do better than that though. That crap is base, unacceptable, and lazy. That is honestly how children think, and that's because they literally don't know any better. Everything for them is a first. We have access to too much information to accept that crap.

For all the times we see the media and people give full (often hyperbolized and emotion driven) backstories to youth white male terrorists (yeah, those who commit mass murder are terrorists, see how that needs to be applied evenly), why are we unable to do the same to others? We can understand that not all young white men are shooters even though several have been, and we don't ostracize them (if so, every college campus would be on lockdown every time a fraternity got together). There you go, Muslim does not equate terrorism, or violence. Learn more about people instead of writing them off. Why are you okay with knowing only your own history when others have to know not only their own but yours as well? The basic tenants, beliefs, contexts, and practices - google them. Watch a documentary, read an article, or listen to a podcast. 

Think for yourself. That's why the system is broken. No one has their own opinions, or they are not informed enough to construct them. I need you to do some appreciative inquiry. What I want to think about, and subsequently you is how do I give people their humanity back when the media takes it away from them. What am I doing every single day to give people the benefit of the doubt? How am I combatting stereotypes and stigmas instead of promoting them? Why did I learn certain things and what have I learned since that has either challenged or supported those ideas? Media literacy asks us to think critically about the messages we receive and put into the world. They can impacts of grave importance.

When I started this post I was going to write about this sentiment that I hear from other people about being tired and not having a capacity to care about what is going on in the world, our country, our communities. I know it's not what people mean but the underlying apathy because it's all too much is worth pointing out. I remind myself that I have to take care of myself first and foremost or else I'm no good to anyone else. If that means disconnecting from social media, and turning of the media for a few hours - fine. I also know that the only person I have control over is myself and I cannot expect anyone else to go change the world, dismantle systems, and write a new history if I don't so myself. And to do so, I must first know how these systems came to be in place. It all weighs on our hearts but we can't turn our hearts off, we have to use them to make a difference. X


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