Source: Flickr by Jernej Furman
Post-truth society, in which we are said to live in, affects us by making it so that fear is taking over our lives. We can see that by the way, people struggle with anxiety and with other mental health issues.
Yet, what causes us this fear? Who or What is to blame? and does it have to be this way?
Our expectations and perceptions
Whilst at university, two words kept surfacing constantly- Expectations and perceptions. These words seemed to be at the centre of society, life, and the cause of either our joy or our grief. Although, I am in no way suggesting that we have complete control of the direction of our lives. Because indeed- external influences have as much of a bearing on the direction we take, and how we get there.
In life, we are encouraged to compete. We are told to have aspirations, and dreams- and to always want more. This competition can be healthy, up to a point. However, expectations can get out of hand, and then we can set ourselves up for a fall.
Sure it is good to have a dream, but we shouldn’t allow ourselves to lose touch with reality in the meantime.
Expectations need to be realistic if they stand a chance of ever being our reality. I am reminded of a time when I was at school, and my teacher told me that there was no such thing as ‘Can’t’.
I remember arguing the point at great length, but conceding that she was likely right. Because it really was my perceptions that were clouding my judgment.
Our perceptions of ourselves, the people around us, and our view of the world- can have a huge influence on how we live our lives. Perceptions are like biased, or blinkered views, that shape the decisions and choices that we make.
When we have a completely hopeful outlook on life, it can be said that we are ‘wearing rose-coloured spectacles’. Although it can be nice to be in this cosy little bubble, we do need to see the realities of life too.
However, our perceptions are often influenced by external sources; which if we are not careful, can leave a dark cloud hanging over us, causing us great psychological harm and great distress.
The media is one such external source that can shape our expectations and perceptions in life. The narratives that the media use, are often guilty of creating a climate of fear.
Media is predominantly full of bad news stories because it sells, and the good news isn’t marketable, or so we are told.
Yet when our lives get constantly swamped with the ugly side of society, we find it hard to have hope and we find that it drags us down. However, there is a sense that the narratives of fear hold another function. That of social control.
Control the media- control the people?
As Jim Morrison of the Doors once said:
Whoever controls the media, controls the mind
Media- whether it be TV, films, or in print for- has the power to influence attitudes and the way we think about the world in which we live. When we think about it in this way, we realise that there’s a fine line between propaganda and truth.
One could get into a whole debate over what is trustworthy media- yet this isn’t the point of my argument.
There really is no such thing as unbiased media, because media reflects the voice of those at the centre of those publications. Media will either reflect the status quo, or it will seek to challenge those narratives. The side we choose to believe is influenced by our own circumstances, our upbringing, and how close we are to the narratives being told.
Those who set off these narratives are fully aware of the effect they will have on their audience (us the people).
They know that they create a climate of fear!
Times of war or other crisis
Times of existential crisis, as we find ourselves in now, can help to push the fear narratives along. It really isn’t difficult for the media to stretch the truth, or to create wild speculations, that ramp up the fear factor a notch.
Yet we need to realise the purpose of this!
Often stories, such as the Chinese balloon fiasco– are used as a distraction away from something media isn’t meant to focus on ( or that we shouldn’t worry our heads about). For instance, to hide the claims by Seymour Hersh – that the USA was the nation to have blown up Nordstream 2.
Undoubtedly we won’t ever know the truth in this matter, but the distraction was comical to say the very least.
Distraction narratives then end up making us wonder what is the truth and has us questioning what we can believe.
This then causes us to be even more fearful.
Because we aren’t present ourselves, we find ourselves wanting to trust those who are the purveyors of the news. Yet media sensationalism, distraction techniques, and media selectivity of what we even get to hear about; can leave us more confused and mistrusting.
In a world with so much media, it can be really difficult to know what is real and what is fiction. Social media means that our views get even more polarised. Our expectations can get out of hand if we aren’t mindful to set our perceptions at a realistic level.
Sure there is a war going on, and yes there are bad people doing bad things. However, we must take the time to disengage from the media, look around us, engage in real life, and see that there is plenty of good in society too.
If we want to have less fear in our lives- then we must do something about it.
Because we ultimately control the media we engage with, and that media need not control us.