Guard your heart.

In this world of instant ‘news’ and polarized camps, it is difficult to siphon off the untrue, inflammatory, and malicious from the true, helpful, and conciliatory.

This is particularly true when we learn that one of the goals of social media is to monetize our attention. In the stunning must-see documentary, The Social Dilemma on Netflix, creators of popular social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest discuss how they have monetized their apps to drive profit. The apps are free to use. What is for sale is…you. Your attention. Your time. Your behavior.

What you click on, how long you look at it, and how you react is all measured. Complex algorithms calculate what data to show you based on what you are most likely to click. If you click on articles on empathy, you’ll be shown more stories on empathy. And if you click on dark or divisive articles, you will get more of same. Meanwhile, each of those clicks is a pay out from those seeking to put their messages into your head. The algorithms aren’t based on whether the content is good for you to view; they are based on what you are most likely to click. It is not hard to see how someone can become radicalized if they follow one of the darker holes further and further down.

So what to do? First, maybe affirm a universal truth. We want to make our decisions based on reality, not lies. We want to conform our understanding to facts, not alter the facts to fit our understanding. It’s as if there is a map to our destination. When we realize we are off course to a place we want to be, we change course, we don’t rewrite the map.

Second, consider your sources. Are they reputable? Rather than feeding the narrative you may want to hear, do they present the issues fairly and with minimal bias? If you are constantly being fed information that doesn’t square with what you see and hear happening around you, change up your sources.

Finally, read broadly. Don’t rely on a single person or news source. With respect to social media, seek out reliable sources directly and go to their sites to read the articles rather than clicking on a tempting link. We can be better informed than ever before, but we need to be intentional about it rather than passively wait for ‘news’ articles to pop up on your Facebook feed.

Social media is a powerful tool, but, like any tool, it can be a force for both good and bad. We need to be wary consumers and protect ourselves from being manipulated solely by advertisers trying to make a dime without regard to whether what they are showing us is true or decent. We need to guard our hearts, not to shelter ourselves from bad news or hurt in the world, but to keep ourselves from falling victim to fraud and deceit and unwittingly perpetuating false narratives ourselves.

From Shari:

Have you fallen for fake news lately? What steps have you taken to make sure you are reading and passing on reliable information?

I recently clicked on an article purporting to be a response from someone who had been silent on a current political issue. I fell for the ‘Check the Date’ problem above. The article was from about four years ago. That person was still being silent on the current issue, so I didn’t get any new information, but that duplicitous advertiser made some money off my click.

How about you?

Cleopatra, the Queen of Denial

darkness

We each are a little bit Cleopatra, the Queen of “Denial”. We overlook flaws in ourselves and our relationships. We gloss over harms and injustices we see or commit. Because when we notice these things, we disrupt the status quo. Things might get messy before they get better. And it calls on us to get to work rather than just kick the can down the road.

But for real progress to be made, in ourselves and in our relationships, we must look deeply and notice where things fall short. Then we can get to work to close the gap between the way things are and the way we want them to be.

What’s the right question?

complicated

Figuring out the right question to ask is well more than half of the struggle. Sometimes it helps when we start with our foundational principles–honesty, integrity, loyalty, peacefulness–and work backwards. Wanting to stay true to the morals we value in ourselves thins out the herd of available questions to ask in a given scenario. Then, the right question to ask becomes more apparent.

Lead your children well.

children

None of us knows what the future holds. But we do know the values we hold dear–honesty, integrity, love, compassion, empathy, respect, tolerance. As we raise our children, we instill these values. As adults, we model these values whether we win or lose, succeed or fail, sink or swim.  Watching us, they learn, and, as they go forward into their futures, they will bring these values to their own decisions. If each of us does this, we will leave the world a better brighter place for our having been here.

Chuck the lies.

honesty

Lie? Why not? Everyone does it, don’t they?

We have many words for lies: white lies, fudging, fibs, whoppers, but what is at the heart of each is knowingly substituting a different version of the facts for what we know is the truth. Sometimes, like with Wells Fargo and Bernie Madoff, the lies result in substantial financial gain for the liar and substantial loss for the victim.

What propels someone to lie so extravagantly or, even, at all?

Studies show that the big whoppers evolve from the littlest of lies: our brain changes as we lie, making us more and more willing to tell bigger and bigger lies:

A new study claims to provide the first empirical evidence showing that dishonesty gradually increases over time. By using scans that measured the brain’s response to lying, researchers saw that each new lie resulted in smaller and smaller neurological reactions ― especially in the amygdala, which is the brain’s emotional core.

In effect, each new fib appeared to desensitize the brain, making it easier and easier to tell more lies.

This is alarming, not just because it can lead to widespread fraud but also because a liar begins to live in an alternate reality. Over time, people can begin to believe the lies they tell themselves and others, putting them in a position where their beliefs just don’t square with the world they’re living in. They are constantly confronted with the disconnect between their altered reality and reality itself, leading to greater and greater anger and frustration. Sometimes those lies are self-delusional, leading people to never adequately address and progress beyond their own problems. In short, lies lead to fragmentation, discord, breach of trust, chaos.

Now, truth doesn’t always lead to harmony. Some truths lead to a road of very hard work, reconciliation, and compromise. But at the heart of telling the truth is an increase in trust which is the glue that binds a couple, a family, a community, a country, and is necessary for any true progress.