Let’s talk about discernment, says the woman who watched a movie last night that was so bad that it doesn’t even have a score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Let’s talk about discernment, says the woman who stayed home from work sick today and thought she might make her sore throat better by eating ice cream.
OK, so, maybe I am not the best person to start this conversation about discernment. But I’m gonna.
In the past couple of days, I’ve seen a blog post floating around Facebook about marriage. If you’re on Facebook with any regularity, you’ve probably seen it too. My apologies to the author of that post, because although his opinions were pretty bad, I’m not actually annoyed at him. I’m more annoyed and frustrated by the internet’s response to him.
Maybe some people genuinely read his post thoughtfully and really loved it, and thought their Facebook friends would benefit from reading it. Maybe! Probably some of them, at least?
But I have my suspicions. That more likely, people were enticed by its popularity and of-the-momentness, and were seduced by some of the romantic-sounding things it said, and thought that – since so many others had loved it, they probably would also love it.
Now I’m not saying that it was terrible and totally unworthy of attention, but, you guys… it wasn’t great.
(And, are we really so hard-up for marriage advice that we’re taking it from some internet stranger who’s been married for 18 months? But that’s a post for another time.)
Now, I don’t know this blogger, and have no idea what his intentions were when writing this post, and I’m guessing he didn’t expect it to be shared so widely. But, his post and the internet’s response to it frustrated me, because it met all of the requirements of a feel-good yet personally challenging article that people love to like, retweet, and share online. It was a nice little post to read through quickly, feel a little convicted about, re-post, and then move on with your day. It’s no surprise that it was shared and re-shared all over Facebook.
Cheeky title that sounds a bit provocative? Check.
Humble perspective followed by wise-sounding advice (“I’ve only been married a year and a half, BUT…”)? Check.
Challenging but easily-digestable life lesson summed up in a short little post? You betcha.
For better or worse, we live in a time where there’s just tons and tons of stuff coming at us, all the time. And it’s not necessarily bad to take so much in (although I’m sure you could make a very good argument against it), but it seems that the combination of massive amounts of stuff + a mob mentality has impaired our ability to absorb information with discrimination. We absorb so much, that it seems we forget to stop and think about what we actually think about it! We see a popular article floating around, read it indiscriminately, and then, because our friends have recommended it and it sounds nice and inoffensive, we nod our heads and hit retweet, share, like. Just because everyone else is sharing that article doesn’t mean you have to read it, and just because you read it, you don’t have to agree with it.
I know a lot of people in real life, and I know that a lot of them are smart and thoughtful, and yet sometimes, it seems that when we’re confronted with a post, book, or video that someone tells us we simply MUST CONSUME, we start to lose our ability to consume with discrimination. We just consume mindlessly, assuming that if everyone else loved it, we probably should too.
Case in point: the terrible movie I watched last night. But I was like, well Connie Britton is in it, and Connie has never led me astray, so I simply must watch the entire movie even though it sucks! Even now, I think to myself, “maybe it wasn’t that bad?” simply because I don’t want to admit that I totally wasted two hours of my life.
In this age, everyone has a platform (including me!), but that doesn’t make the content any good. Anyone can create a digital platform, but that doesn’t mean they’re saying anything of value. They might be! But maybe not. But we can’t expect every blogger to create and present really, truly good stuff. Instead, it’s our responsibility – as the consumers – to read with discrimination.
Recently, I was talking to my mom about a writer we both love, and I was going on and on about how great she was and how everyone should read her. My mom agreed about how much she liked this writer and how important she was, but then told me to make sure I read with a discriminating mind. That, although she’s proven a trustworthy source, I shouldn’t read her with a mind that just assumes everything she writes is perfect and true and accurate. Sure, I should trust her based on what I know of her, but I shouldn’t think things like “everything you say is perfect!” because that turns me into someone who’s A. unwilling to think for herself B. kind of a stalker weirdo, I guess.
And that conversation really shifted something in me. It made me think more critically about reading and consuming. And it also made it much harder for me to love people on social media, because sometimes… sometimes… it’s just so hard. Sometimes I want to shake people. But I’m trying to not want to shake people so much.
The next time I see some popular article floating around, I might read it. I might even like – or LOVE – it. But first, I’ll try my best to forget all the likes, and the shares, and the retweets, and the glowing recommendations, and the cutesy and convicting title – and just read it for what it is.