As part of my routine, I usually observe my Facebook newsfeed for updates on a daily basis, scrolling past the vast amounts of information people post every day. Exposed to the variety of graphic images and hundreds of stories about current events—most of them depressing—I feel guilty with each scroll that passes by links worth clicking or informing myself on. And as I see the juxtapositioning of someone’s beautifully decorated food underneath another photo of an orphaned Syrian child, it makes me wonder if our presence in the world actually helps those who need it.
I wonder if all this information has desensitized us to violence and destruction?
I feel like it has.
This thought didn’t really hit me until I starting reading an article published by The New York Times recently. I found it on a friend’s profile—and just like any other article that looked like an interesting read, I clicked on it.
Halfway through the article, my eyes started swelling up with tears. I genuinely could not read the rest. Not only was I tearing up, I was hurting inside—extremely disturbed by what I was exposing myself to. And in realizing my overly emotional response, I genuinely felt surprised. Why had this article struck a chord with me while the other hundreds of articles I had read over the last few months had not conjured up a similar response? Maybe I had had enough. Perhaps the pain I was feeling in that moment was built-up.
This was the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/15/opinion/hunger-striking-at-guantanamo-bay.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0
Reading it, I felt useless. I felt weak and almost hypocritical for not knowing about all the injustices occurring behind closed doors. But then again, I could not expect myself to know so. And it made me think: with all the information available, are people merely reading, watching or listening to this news—or are they absorbing it? But then again, with so much information expected to be absorbed, a human can only empathize with so much at once.
In thinking about this topic, I digressed a little. I thought about how everyone expects the Internet to “save” everyone. As if, somehow, the power of virtual communication can inform a wider public about what’s really going on in the world. It is true. It may. But when I placed myself through the eyes of any other Facebook user, I realized something different. Everyone has a unique circle of friends—where the majority of those friends may even hold the same opinion as them—politically, religiously, socially. I, as a Muslim with so many Muslim friends, may be exposed to different news on my newsfeed on a daily basis. News concerning topics from parts of the world others may not even know exist. This news can make me into a well-informed individual, but only in the context of my social circle.
I wonder: does that mean that if I was exposed to more photos of—say—other places I was uninformed of, or even just useless photos of spring breakers partying it up, that somehow what I found to be important would change? I think so. The information we are exposed to can change the way we think. It can prove to stand out as more important than anything else. And I sometimes think that with the rise of information overload, new perspectives are not brought forth to the right demographics as much as old perspectives are being nurtured by the same demographics. So maybe, if we really want to make a difference in the world using the world wide web as our medium, perhaps its time to step outside our comfort zone. It may be best to expose de-desensitized audiences about what it is we are slowly becoming desensitized to.
Just something to think about.