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Tired of the Political Arguments on Social Media? 8 Ways I'm Staying Engaged While Filtering the Noise

I’m an advocate for using social media to mobilize the world. I encourage people to use their voices because they CAN make a positive difference!  

But… like every progressive technology, there are losses that come with benefits. Instant information at our fingertips makes us become intolerant of things that take time.

We now have a world who shares an article before reading it, who tweets a quote without investigating the context, who gathers information from memes, Wikipedia, and spliced YouTube videos, and who believes any version of history that supports their already framed opinions. 

To make matters worse, we have a generation of church goers who say they represent the Bible while not having read it, and studies show that only 9% of those claiming to be Christians hold a viewpoint that is in line with what the Bible actually says.

Put that together with instant public forums, and we get a cacophony of opinion-generated gifs published by people who would rather argue about how to pronounce gif than to take the time to learn the word cacophony.

May I do for you what someone else has done for me?

I challenge you to decipher the truth from the noise, 

I'm paying it forward, and here’s how:

1.     Read. 

  • Read things that aren’t only supportive of the opinions you already have (for instance, if you don't care for this first bullet point, then you’re likely to close this window—don’t do it! READ!). And don’t neglect the media of our ancestors--read books! No time? Set out to read 10 pages a day--you can make time for that, and by the end of the year, you’ll have read 3,650 pages. Read about history from both sides of the story, but don’t limit yourself to educational texts--you’ll learn so much about the world by reading literature too.

2.     Write. 

  • Have deep thoughts? Have unsettled feelings? Science tells us that writing is cathartic. It helps us process thoughts and achieve mental rest. Stop sharing other people's thoughts and write your own. Type it, scribble it, make a list, but don’t share it just yet. Let it marinate. Wait a week or two. Or three. If it's true now, it will still be true then. Write 5x’s more than you publish. (And trust me from personal experience--you’ll be thankful one day that you didn't post some of your impulsive thoughts).

3.     Listen. 

  • Open your ears, open your mind. Don’t assume. Get face to face with people and while they’re talking, don’t be thinking of how to share your opinion with them, but ask them what they think. People are so interesting! They have so many experiences! Listen to someone of a different age or someone who supports a different cause than you. When you listen to someone else, you have an opportunity to learn something new, expand your perspective, and deepen your compassion. If you're reading someone else's post on social media, put aside the criticism and try to understand their perspective. You may not agree, but it's beneficial to everyone when we empathize. 

4.     Examine. 

  • Spend time in contemplation. Don’t just consume what you’re hearing, look for the biases and assumptions. Assumption is what happens when someone doesn’t know all the information. Example: “I don’t know see how anyone could vote for that person, they must be _____.”  To assume you know and understand someone's motivations before asking and listening is foolishness. And most online articles have assumptions--even by the most respected writers. Make it like a game of "Where's Waldo?" and hunt for the assumptions. When you find them, you'll realize the author's information gap, and you'll know what else you should consider. Thoughtful examination leads to wise conclusions, which is the opposite of assuming. Assumption results from ignorance; conclusion results from understanding. Without examination, you’ll have an ever-swayed perspective. Test what you hear against what you already know to be true. Check the facts, check the sources. Don’t retweet until you are sure.

5.     Know. 

  • Know what you think, what you believe, and why. What do you value? On what do you base your decisions? Make efforts to master your knowledge. Look up the meanings of words, learn about places and cultures, research the issues. That way, when it IS your turn to talk, you’ll have something worth saying and you’ll know how to say it. Einstein said, “If you can’t explain something to a 6-year-old, you don’t really know it yourself.”*

6.     Pursue. 

  • Pursue truth, pursue wisdom. Be willing to grow and change. Realize that you’re quick to believe things that sound good to you--*like that Albert Einstein said “If you can’t explain it to a 6 year old, you don’t really understand it yourself,” which was never said by Einstein, yet if you google it, is available in a variety of memes, (one of which I tweeted years ago and shared in a powerpoint presentation—see, I told you I'm paying this forward). Eat humble pie and realize that you could learn more. For instance, if you’ve read this far, then you're probably inclined to like this advice, which means you are inclined to like what the Bible has to say, because all of this is derived from its principles. If you have negative opinions about what the Bible has to say, is that an assumption or knowledge from personal examination? There’s actually an entire section about growing in wisdom-- it’s called Proverbs, and if you open a Bible split-down the middle, you’ll find it. Perhaps you’ll be willing to know and grow from the source that illuminated all of these principles. Even the idea of paying it forward—Jesus invented that.

7.     Be Patient. 

  • I know we live in an instant-gratification society, but this type of journey doesn’t happen overnight. Keep the long-term goal in front of you. If you commit to it, you’ll be amazed at the difference within yourself by the next election--yes give it 4 years or 8 years, ever on an incline of growth, don't be satisfied with a plateau. Remember that others are also on a journey, so refrain from attack mode and give others the same patience that you once needed. 

8. Be Content.

  • Know your self worth. When you're secure in your own identity, the turmoil around you loses some of its power.  You're a one of a kind creation! You're valuable and here for a purpose! Embrace that, keep focus, and move forward in faith. The ripple effect is real.

And when you’re fed up with the cacophony on the internet, put it aside for a little while. Seriously, just set it down. It’ll be there when you get back, like a music box when you close the lid and open it again. Go someplace quiet with your thoughts (and maybe a dictionary if you still don’t know the meaning of the word cacophony), and begin your journey of shutting out the noise and resting in your understanding of what's true. I wish you the best. 

I dedicate this post to the people who have lovingly pushed me in my own journey in this regard: To Doreen Stelling, who honestly confronted me 10 years ago that the one thing holding me back as an adult was my lack of reading, to Shannon Murray, who challenges us to read 10 pages a day, to Heather Holleman, who says we find our voice and gratitude when we daily write our thoughts, to Leigh Bortins, who advocates growing in knowledge and pursuing truth as a lifestyle, to Nikki Hummel, who showed me in college that the Bible can be savored and applied daily, to Roger Hershey, who teaches that listening is one of the wisest and most compassionate acts, to Tedd Tripp, whose book plunged me into the study of Proverbs, to Shannon Glass, whose friendship facilitated our group study on this topic, to my girlfriends near and far who sharpen me with their faith, love, and refining conversations, to my husband Karl, who magnifies my examination, protects me from foolishness, and demonstrates patience to me like no other; and lastly, to my mom, my first and primary teacher and the world's most leading example in holding your tongue until you have something kind and important to say. 

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