Are You Paying Attention?

Amanda Whitcroft
September 3, 2021

“Are you paying attention? If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.” We hear this constantly, from our friends and family to our national leaders. People have become addicted to the anxiety generated by mainstream news, which is fed to us from the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep. What was once innocent access to information has evolved into a malevolent narrative; one designed to keep us on edge and divide us, because anger sells. It’s the drug that keeps us clicking and scrolling. The helplessness we feel has created a drive to create solutions to a problem, even if it’s just for the sake of being right. We get so caught up in correctness that our opinions become facts to us, and opinions that cause a willingness to burn bridges in the name of them.

With the rise of working from home and decline of independent journalism and tangible print media, most of what we consume comes out of our screens. Since the pandemic, we now spend the majority of our time behind screens: for social interaction, work, education, and importantly: news. Without the variety of life that comes with normalcy, our social media life becomes real life. Those opinions become the opinion, with no room for dissent. Those that are different are considered “other,” as tribalism grips the nation and hostility colors so many of our interactions. It has become “us versus them,” with “them” being anyone that disagrees with the narrative we are constantly fed.

One of the biggest problems we’re encountering is the percentage of ideologies that are based in fear. With so much uncertainty in the world, we become the passengers on a turbulent plane without a pilot to reassure us. Instead of channeling that anxious energy into something productive, people have become keyboard warriors, convinced they are the voice of truth and anyone who disagrees has to be a stupid or fighting for the wrong team. Suddenly something as simple as supporting our troops in times of turmoil becomes an endorsement of previous presidents or fascism. The simple question of body autonomy makes you a “science denier.” Polarization is pushing people left and right and being, telling us we are wrong for being centrists, or for not taking sides, leaving people confused and friendless as cancel culture consumes the thinking world.

We fail to remember that so much of every day life is full of events outside our control, in fact, much of the life we know fits into this reality. Instead of allowing that anxiety to turn us against our family and friends, we should channel this energy into things we can control. We need to come together and start focusing on our communities, repairing relationships, and making the world a place we want to live in, not tear down for fear of opposition. Let’s change our voices to fixate on that which is changeable, rather than allowing negative thoughts and interactions to shape and define our worldview. If there isn’t a positive, it is our job to create one. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Finding light in the darkness is what we should be paying attention to. Don’t leave yourself ignorant to the workings of the world, but rather give respectful attention to your autonomy, focusing instead on the things within your control. Become the change you beg to see in the world, for it is far closer to your grasp than you may believe. Who knows? Maybe as a result, other people will start paying attention, too.

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