I have seen a lot of controversy brewing over the past several months, over many things. Discrimination, racism, patriotism, freedom, protests, family values, management of donated funds, equal rights, media narratives, support in natural disasters…did I miss anything?? It seems that our culture has mastered the art of skimming a headline and deciding to be offended by something relating (or not relating at all) to an immediately perceived idea. Let’s think about this. A headline is not even one complete sentence, and it is well-crafted to catch our attention enough to desire more information. At least, that used to be the primary purpose. Most writers understand that the vast majority of people don’t bother to read entire articles anymore, so headlines have quickly become “click-bait”. The purpose is no longer to capture a reader, it is to capture a screen click. How many times have you opened an article online, only to leave the site in less than 15 seconds? You aren’t alone if you have.
For those of you still reading, here’s my first point. We too often accept under-educated, over-paid opinions as “current events”. How many American opinions do you think have been created based on less than 15 seconds of actual information about an idea? Further, there used to be the idea of credible sources. That doesn’t seem to matter as much either, considering people aren’t staying long enough to read a well-founded point. Within those 15 seconds of input, what are the chances that there is more than one perspective provided, more than one opinion taken into account, or any historical evidence to support why that one mentioned opinion is well-founded? Anyone can say anything, which is a wonderful product of free-speech. Unfortunately, not everyone’s opinion is valid, well-founded, or worth even those 15 seconds spent skimming over it. Nothing I have mentioned to this point should be controversial because it is common knowledge, yet already I can guarantee that someone has decided to be offended by it. “What do mean I’m not properly informed within 15 seconds of a forwarded social media article?? The outrage!”
Secondly, we don’t seem to recognize that 15 seconds of immersion into one person’s written opinion does not suddenly transform us into constitutional lawyers, military strategists, surgical specialists, international organization directors, or any other position that requires years of education and experience. It simply makes us one more reader of an article.
Thirdly, one skimmed article is a great starting point if the topic stirs something inside you. If it leads you to seek out the most qualified opinions, a well-defined history, and the most current research on the topic, kudos to that initial writer! Ideally, it might even stir you to do something in real life that you may have never considered otherwise. But if all a headline does is cause you to be passively offended in a new way toward a new group of people, it’s greatest power is only to further divide us.
Lastly, we have the option to choose discernment. We have the choice to refrain from being exhaustively offended at every random story thrown our way. We have some amazing freedoms around here! That includes the freedom to weed out the trash from our feeds and news stations before responding to any of it. Sometimes being offended is just being offended.