My Journey to Become Better Informed in the Age of Hidden Agendas
My Journey to Become Better Informed in the Age of Hidden Agendas
Let’s start with a confession: I’m horrible at being an ‘informed’, well-rounded consumer of the daily news. I try to be better, but with all the right/left/alt-right/alt-left/fringe leanings for the same news story, I find myself just consuming what’s easiest. That, for the longest time, led me to only consume media and news from one side of the proverbial aisle or the other.
My early years of content consumption
When I was younger, and of the more Conservative mindset, I didn’t really consume a lot of news media. I just garnered my worldview and my understanding of politics through the lens of the Church, and through osmosis I guess. I didn’t lean extremely far-right, but I did hold a lot of viewpoints that were based on nothing other than being told by someone else that it was the ‘right’ viewpoint. This sort of behavior lasted me well through my early 20s as I coasted along in college.
Then, as I matured and ventured outside my bubble of immediate friends, I came to understand just how small my circle of influence was. So I began seeking out other viewpoints in news media and popular culture. I found myself exploring the often demonized Left and their beliefs regarding healthcare, education, and other divisive topics. A lot of the time, I found the core message resonated with me and actually aligned better with my beliefs than I originally thought possible.
Never really being one for social media, I tended to take in my information from trusted news sources. I read articles and viewpoints from people way outside of my realm of understanding, and that helped me to grow fairly extensively. I can’t say that my methodology was extremely sound, but it at least served to expand my worldview outside of just the Bible, mission trips, and my small group of friends.
Losing my way in overly biased news
After spending so long on the extremely Conservative side of the fence, I found myself moving just as hard into the extremely Liberal side. I began reading more and more news and statistics from extremely far-left publications. This led me back to the same trap that I fell into before: only looking at one side of the story. Now I won’t say that I completely drank the Kool-Aid of the Left, but I definitely swung pretty far in that direction. Looking back, I was in no way cognizant about the ways in which I was filling myself with similarly biased reporting.
I find that this is just an extremely easy thing for me (and others) to do. Why take the time to explore an opposing viewpoint if I don’t have to? It’s not like a lot of the people I was surrounding myself were interested in having protracted political discussions. We all just kept to ourselves for the most part. And the people that did enjoy talking about that sort of stuff (like my fellow Curious Friends) just aligned pretty easily with my viewpoints.
However, I soon saw that I had fallen into the same habits of only seeking one side of any given news story. I had this brief moment of zen right in the middle of this transition in which I was seeking out insights from both sides of the aisle. But now I was back to only consuming one view when it came to the news. Not being one to just ‘go along with the flow’, I decided that I would try to make a change. This change occurred shortly after Donald J Trump was elected to office, when the amount of information that I needed to consume in order to stay informed increased exponentially.
My current journey to ‘enlightenment’
I won’t go deep into the 2016 Presidential Election and my feelings surrounding it. It was simply a turning point in my understanding of how far off-course I had gone. Every news outlet that I took in became an echo chamber of confused ramblings regarding how Hilary Rodham Clinton should have won and why. I quickly got sick of hearing the same guesses and theories over and over again, so I just fell out of my habit of taking in news. I just couldn’t bring myself to listen to numerous ‘News’ podcasts that were all complaining about the same thing.
Sadly enough, that simple change in my media consumption was enough to break my hard fought habit of being informed. I quickly lost touch with the policy changes and political maneuverings of the first year of Donald Trump’s Presidency. I was vaguely aware of what was going on, but outside of what I heard on The Daily, I didn’t really follow much else. It also didn’t help that my regular discussion partners, Chris and Meghan, were far off in Boston…
To be honest, that’s really where I find myself right now. I’ve gotten a little better about reading news articles from various sources and keeping myself informed, but I know that I need to do better. That’s why I’m making a concerted effort to begin exploring ways in which to consume either a mostly unbiased or at least somewhat balanced new diet. With all the craziness going on in the world today, I don’t want to fall back into the trap of solely gaining my news from sources on one side of the aisle only.
So what’s next?
Being a curious person means being naturally inclined to question your beliefs and viewpoints. That’s why I’m hoping that you will want to follow along with my journey over the next few months. What I’ll be attempting to do is to explore different ways of taking in a variety of news without having to spend hours digging through various sources for varied viewpoints. This will mean looking into better digital news readers, discussing ways to check the bias of your news sources, and just generally looking into how to better stay informed.
No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, it’s important to expand your view. Even if it is only to better understand what you do and do not agree with regarding the current leader of our nation. I want to be clear now that I will not be diving into my own political beliefs and I won’t be push my views onto you. The purpose of the Curious Friends Club is to be as open-minded and inquisitive as possible, so I’ll only be discussing my journey, and methods for being more curious.
If you’re looking for direction on what to think or believe, I’d advise finding someone more important than me. However, if you feel as disenfranchised with your current news consumption as I do, then I hope you’ll join me in expanding the manner in which you get informed. That way we can all be better at discussing our beliefs and passions with those that care to hear. If you have any suggestions on what I should be exploring or how you have improved your own balanced news diet, then drop them in the comments below!