Protect Your Clicks

So, if you are an anxiety sister or brother, there’s kind of a lot out there right now could twist you up.

Dana and I have talked about the various ways we are working to limit our internet driven anxieties. She spends less time on the internet period and I served up notice on my Facebook feed that election related instigation posts would be cause for time out.

Neither one of us follow “news” sites. You know why I used the quotation marks. Because it’s not really news as much as it is personal interest stories served up via data mining. They show you what you want to see. That’s not news.

A few of my friends have turned off their TV service in an effort to avoid the effect of the media. I admire them, even though we would never make this choice because, well…football. And Food Network. And Paw Patrol.

Here’s the thing, though: I don’t think TV news is the problem. Since anyone could be watching a TV channel, it’s hard for the powers that be to narrow the bias.

But on the internet, they know who we are.

Not just by what we click on. Every quiz, surveymonkey and poll we interact with generates data about what we like, hate, worry about.

Then they feed us what we’re hungry for.

I see what my anxiety mama friends post on my Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes it’s a constant stream of death and destruction, fed to them by the websites they have come to trust.

And yes, I do it too. Yesterday I contributed posts about cancer causing chemicals in feminine products and the black tire infill that goes on artificial turf. Although I believe that #saveourgirlparts is a necessary campaign and not fear-mongering.

But I saw a “news” story on Facebook that did not make the national news for the simple reason that it wasn’t news. There was an Ebola scare at a local school. The school went on lock-down and the student was quarantined. Why? The student mentioned that they had come into contact with someone who may have come been on the plane or in the same airport with the sick nurse who flew last weekend.

Boom. People’s head’s exploded. Over 200 comments on the article in the first 20 minutes it was up, everything from blaming the President to blaming illegal immigrants. People were actually gleeful about the fact that Ebola was possible in So Cal so they could crow their political “I told you so!”

Facts? Overrated. Reason? Unnecessary. Mentioning a little thing called an “incubation period” A hanging offense. Panic, conspiracy theories and prejudice ruled the discussion.

Within the hour, the lockdown lifted and weary public officials were standing in front of cameras reminding people that we have to keep our wits about us. The student only came in contact with someone who flew last weekend. Not with the nurse. And not from Cleveland to Dallas.

In my opinion, it was unethical reporting. But it was unethical reporting with a huge audience. The website knows its readers.

It used to be that sex sold things. But fear is a much more powerful motivator. And the internet has made us eminently trackable. Perhaps we know that personal privacy is over.

But how many of us realize we are being fed a narrative on the internet disguised as “news”? As a result, too many of us believe that the world is having a permanent very bad day.

This is a false reflection.  And it’s stealing our joy.

Let’s #BeReal and take back our clicks. Turn off,, HuffPo,, and any other forces for fear on your computer. You know who they are. Get your news at 4 and 5 and 6 pm from your local and national anchors who have to be more precise in what they say in order to keep their viewers.

Keep your wits about you. And think before you click. Because the way technology is moving, your click may be all you have.


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