The Day After: A Digital Reckoning

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The frenzy of a newsfeed. The thrill of an iPhone screen full of notifications. Getting the news AS IT HAPPENS. Arguing with a random stranger online over an issue that both of you probably don’t know enough about as you should.

In this world of digital immediacy, we live life in a moment, within a tweet and a text message. This adrenaline rush is intoxicating, addictive and damn fun. I mean REALLY fun. Who doesn’t want to feel like the entire world is within the small coveted device that we can’t seem to pry from our hands?

But, like all addictions, we seem to need more and more. We click “share” without much thought, without verifying the truth of the statements we send out into the world in our name. And in this digital world, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. But, we don’t seem to care. If we believe it to be true, than it is. Facts and accountability have no place here.

Some say the media is to blame, and that may be partly true. But, the media can’t sell their product to an unwilling audience. And we’ve all been oh-so willing. From Huffington Post to Breitbart… from FoxNews to MSNBC, they have all been guilty of giving the biased viewpoints that we long to hear. This is not because they are necessarily trying to sway us, but because they want to please us— their customers. As the old adage goes, “The customer is always right.” And they want us coming back for more… and more.

But, we have seemed to be okay with that. Frankly, in the last months, we’ve relished in it. Reveled in it. Every opinion can be justified with a “fact” that we find on our little miracle devices. Making us feel vindicated. Making us feel heard.

But, really, who is hearing us? The select few with which we choose to associate? The like-minded folks and trolls that haunt the comments section of the specific sites where we collect our news? Who’s to blame for the memes that make us laugh in glee to cover the meanness and spite that we try to hide from view?

In this new world, we all do this— Republican and Democrat, Liberal and Conservative. And, for the sake of all of us, it needs to stop. This horrendous election season has taught us that… taught us what can happen when these habits run amok. These hellish months are the result of our own collective hubris. The idea that our reality is the only reality.

So, what are we going to do about it? It starts with each of us. We have a choice to make. Can we disconnect from the opiate, digital stew that dulls our senses and makes it harder to see what is true… what is fair… what is just?

Can we do that?

Can we?

Morning Routines

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I’m a morning person— the perky, annoying kind that wakes up without an alarm. Night owls tend to view folks like me with suspicion, as if we’re asking them to join a religious cult like Scientology or Weight Watchers.

The key to a happy morning is making sure your routine contains at least a few minutes that you can call your own. If you have to wake up 10 minutes earlier, do it. I don’t care if you spend that time on the toilet while you play Candy Crush on your cell phone for so long that the edge of the toilet seat creates a red ring on your butt. It’s still worth it. You can get an ointment for that.

I love my morning routine. I wake up, eat an English muffin and check my email. Unlike Hillary’s lost classified goodies, most of my email is junk from random companies that want to sell me crap at 10% off. It doesn’t take much brain power to tap the delete button, so while I’m doing this, I watch the morning news on TV.

I love watching the morning news, but recently it has majorly sucked. It seems the entire broadcast is devoted to the presidential election and/or celebrity news. There are probably hundreds of children dying in third world countries— but we’d have no way of knowing because the TV anchors are too busy giving a recap from the MTV Video Music Awards.

When the media does choose to cover real news stories, it’s incredibly unhelpful. I’d like to know when debating a presidential candidate’s physical robustness became an important issue? I don’t care if a candidate has high cholesterol, has spray-tanned skin and small hands, or sometimes has a cough. I care if they are mentally prepared, capable and qualified.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of the greatest US presidents and the longest-serving, was in a wheelchair. Polio struck him as a young man and he never regained the use of his legs. The truth of his condition was known to most journalists at the time, but they chose not to make a big deal of it. They recognized that FDR was a devoted public servant that was fit to be president.

Have we now regressed? To the ancient tribal days when the chieftain or warlord was always the brawniest guy with the biggest… err, sword?

In today’s political climate, I’m very sad to say that a person like FDR would never be elected president. It wouldn’t matter how qualified he may have been. As a person in a wheelchair myself, this makes me very disappointed to admit that. But, in a culture that only values beauty, celebrity and strength, it comes as no surprise.

For the next couple of months, perhaps I should forgo watching the news during my morning routine. I think playing Candy Crush might be a better bet…