Is Clickbait Distracting You From the Causes Worth Fighting For?
ICE. DEA. Police violence. Bail reform. Private prison labor. Midterm elections. The EPA. Fossil fuels. Climate change. Online privacy. GMOs. Pesticides. Climate change.
Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test. Hillary Clinton insisting that her husband receiving fellatio from an intern wasn’t an abuse of his power.
The Astros. The Patriots. The Raptors.
NestlÃ©. Flint. PFAs.
O p i o i d s.
I could fill this entire article simply listing the issues and mind-numbing fodder of the day. Sometimes it feels like the media is throwing things at us, like Trump throwing a tweet to the hounds. Except we are the hounds, and we chase every topic like we’re chasing squirrels.
I know it is important to be informed. But the quality of the information we are consuming is often, at best, subpar. Which makes it like chasing a squirrel into a rabbit hole, repeatedly, for hours on end.
To be fair, I’ve seen dogs with more restraint in an open field than I’ve seen humans exercise on Facebook and Twitter. And I’ve seen squirrels with more regality than most of the media topics today.
The enemy, then, isn’t Trump or Twitter. It’s not Russia. Or China. It’s not even the internet.
The enemy—what we all must strive to resist—is distraction. We must resist clicking, and following each new item as if we have no self-control.
Distraction is what’s keeping the power structure stacked against humanity’s best interest. We are, as a nation and as humanity, so incredibly distracted by everything going on. We are overwhelmed, overloaded with useless information, unfocused; and many, on top of it all, are just doing their best to survive. Most don’t have the luxury of reading this article right now—they’re too busy being distracted by the three jobs they work to support themselves and their children. That makes their attention all the more valuable as they strike or fight to raise the minimum wage, or for the rights of immigrants.
Do you feel any solidarity or compassion for them? Their plight might not be as sexily clickable as a hate tweet, but perhaps their activism is at least as worthwhile to pay attention to.
Distraction—by that Trump tweet or the New York Times or the latest alert on your phone—can suck the wind from the sails of a social movement faster than a well-choreographed conspiracy to infiltrate it and bring it down from the inside. Who needs conspiracy when all that really needs to happen is to get you to click to a new and totally different page?
Understand: Every click is an affirmation of something—that’s why the president is so “popular,” and hate is so shared. The garbage is sticky, and you’re fueling it with your clicks.
Don’t like it? Why share it?
Here’s what I propose: Stop clicking. And stop sharing that which adds nothing of value to your life.
Rather, pick your issue. Pick what you care about, what you want to be passionate about changing in the world; then put some blinders on and stay focused on that issue—and on making the change you want to see in the world happen.
That means stop clicking on every outrageous story that may or may not be true. Stop scrolling mindlessly through your feed until you find something that makes you angry, and then hate-share it across platforms. Just stop with that trolling nonsense.
Say you want to Abolish ICE. Great! What have you done today to accomplish that? Have you called your elected officials? Have you called elected officials in other states? Have you written letters, attended local meetings or protests? Have you found the local groups working on that issue?
No? Great! Now you have something to do that isn’t scrolling mindlessly through social media or watching Ninja on Twitch. Now, you have a mission.
There are thousands of issues out there. Kids in Flint still don’t have clean water. There are homeless people in your town. There are hungry children there too. There are families torn apart by wars here at home and in foreign countries. Climate change is at crisis levels, and more and more communities are losing everything.
Find what you want to be a part of the solution to, focus on it and do it. Look: Very few people are going to be handed their mission Charlie’s Angels-style. You need to identify your own mission, and you need to pursue it. No one else can do it for you.
And don’t let the man with the orange face distract you from it even for a moment.
Our future as a nation, and as humanity, depends on our ability to pull away from that which is distracting us.
We have no choice. We must get focused. Now.
Wait! Don’t click away. Ask yourself: Where am I going next?
This article was produced by Local Peace Economy, a project of the Independent Media Institute.