All too often it is easy to compartmentalize yourself from the outside world. Whether you shut yourself off from interacting with coworkers, make sure to check the mail at a time when your neighbor isn’t home to avoid even basic interaction or you try to minimize contact with your own family, voluntary isolation is merely a matter of reality for an increasing number of people.
Some blame for this antisocial behavior can be saddled on technology. It has never been easier to unplug from the outside world, simply by plugging into the online one. You can socialize online, forge relationships via text messages and pretend that no alternative view outside of your own exists by cocooning inside a comfortable echo chamber of likeminded, virtual peers.
More blame should be placed on the mainstream media – and particularly 24-hour cable news stations – which have found that the only thing that sells better than violence and chaos is the relentless coverage of these types of tragedies and leeching off the fear and trepidation they create; thereby ensuring that its viewing populace knows exactly how scary the outside world is, and why it’s better to just stay inside and keep to yourself and, of course, stay glued to the set for the next update, because it could happen to your town next.
The sheer breadth of the world means we get to read about and watch coverage of serial killers, shark attacks, hurricanes, plagues, genocide, extinction of species, new strains of contagious diseases, bombings, suicides, adultery, hypocrisy, starvation, inequality and every different manner of depravity which the human species can imagine – all of it is happening somewhere, on any given day; you just have to tune in.
While the irony of a newspaper talking about these things is not lost on us, we do not intend to only contribute to this bogus assertion of the world – that we should fear what we don’t understand, hate what we don’t agree with or opt to simply stay out of matters that don’t pertain directly to us.
As a community newspaper, we are inherently a part of our community. We are on boards of local businesses and nonprofits, we mentor younger generations, we actively listen and try to facilitate conversation between parties who see sides of issues different and we always encourage discourse of any productive kind on our website, on our social media and, yes, we still actively pursue letters to be sent to our print publication – regardless of your political leaning.
In light of recent developments regarding Facebook working in cahoots not only with a skeevy personal information mining company, but also allegedly (with good financial-based evidence to suggest so) with shady Russian interlopers directly in order to give them unprecedented access to malleable minds, it seems that staying inside and living your life online is no longer a consequence-free alternative to going outdoors.
The path we find ourselves on is one where it is now considered above and beyond to help somebody who you don’t know. The aforementioned news media loves to portray those who perform some grand act for a stranger as a “hero,” despite millions of people worldwide who work every day, tirelessly, for the benefit of people they will never meet – and never getting a single ounce of credit for it.
We need more people to pay attention to those around them. How many overdoses could have been prevented if someone noticed an obviously disturbed person and sought help for them, rather than walking by quickly hoping they don’t notice your presence? How many acts of violence might have been prevented if somebody cared enough to ask someone if they were okay when it seemed they were in a dark place? We will never know.
This is not to say that the world isn’t a dangerous place, although it is indeed a far less dangerous place than certain forces want you to believe. This is to say that if we lose sight of what it means to be human – interacting with others with their own unique perceptions of the world – we will only feel deeper separation from one another, resulting in more pain and more apathetic suffering.
Check in on your neighbor. Ask how their day went. Call a relative you haven’t heard from in a while. If you’re online and you see someone seems to be in a bad place, send them a message and see if they need someone to confide in. You have no idea how much this might mean to someone who doesn’t expect it, or worse, doesn’t feel as though anybody cares.
While it is much easier to simply focus on yourself, we cannot forget that our lives and our very state of being is predicated on the existence of many other people who came before us, and the ones that now live alongside us.