Step Back

It’s easy to react, especially if you’re a reactive person. That would be me.

There have been numerous times when I experienced something and my first reaction was criticism. Later, after reflection, I came to a different conclusion. Then, there are the times I thought something was great, only to debrief later and my assessment had changed. That doesn’t mean I’m wishy-washy, but that space and distance often delivers a different sense of an event, person, or circumstance.

Our ever-present, ever-on technology platforms allow us to emote, bloviate, and impose our opinions on others—in real time—without any space or distance to ruminate. Our media channels do the same thing. No one reads newspapers, and few people subscribe to thoughtful publications offering opinion backed by facts. It’s simply garbage in, garbage out via Facebook or Twitter.

The natural world is a perfect place to reflect.

The natural world is a perfect place to reflect.

May I kvetch for a moment? There are far too many people spending inordinate amounts of time, tweeting incessantly about pretty much nothing. I see a number of people, in public roles here in Maine, tweeting around the clock. Does anyone care that they’re bringing little or no value to the public sphere via Twitter, while collecting a nice paycheck? Apparently not.

So what’s the alternative? Reading is one place to start. But of course, that would require you to put your smartphone down and step away from the Twitter. Then there’s the question of books to read, also.

I have a reading list. It’s unlikely that you’ll want to read all the types of books that I read—nonfiction, with a sociological thread running through them (usually). It does offer an example of how you can feed your brain information so that you can step away from the knee-jerk, binary kinds of thinking that plague the public square at-present.

Want to understand Baltimore? Don’t rely on Twitter. Read Kristian Williams’ book about policing, or Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow. Want some fodder about aging that’s not filled with hype and misinformation? Susan Jacoby’s book will open your eyes.

Sadly, most people don’t want their opinions informed by fact or reflection. “Don’t confuse me with the facts” is the mantra and mindset they’re clinging to.

2 thoughts on “Step Back

  1. Thank you for writing this thoughtful post today. Stepping back takes a degree of discipline that is now unfamiliar to us as a society. It is too easy to lose ourselves in the Twitter/Facebook feed or reading one more analysis of last hour’s breaking “news.” To take the longer view might require humility instead of hubris.

  2. @JAB Thanks for validating my attempt to interject thoughtfulness into our daily discourse.

    Discipline is an interesting word and concept. I think about my life over the past decade, or so. One word that characterizes much of that period of change and reinvention is “discipline.” Discipline is making a commitment to yourself. Committing to blogging and writing. Deciding to lose weight and get in shape. Embracing triathlons and learning how to swim.

    Maybe what I dislike about Twitter/Facebook is that it promotes an undisciplined approach, and in fact, takes time away from cultivating the traits necessary for reflection, and the discipline requisite in creating the necessary distance and space for true reflection to occur.

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