June 1, 2010

Who is the Media Now?

I was reading the introduction to the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf for my devotional time the other day and something new caught my eye. I love how you can read the same passage repeatedly and even on the 20th reading you'll find some new pearl of insight. Anyway, there was a little blurb about newspapers quoted there (from some other Tablet) which read as follows:

In this Day the secrets of the earth are laid bare before the eyes of men. The pages of swiftly-appearing newspapers are indeed the mirror of the world. They reflect the deeds and the pursuits of divers peoples and kindreds. They both reflect them and make them known. They are a mirror endowed with hearing, sight and speech. This is an amazing and potent phenomenon. However, it behoveth the writers thereof to be purged from the promptings of evil passions and desires and to be attired with the raiment of justice and equity. They should enquire into situations as much as possible and ascertain the facts, then set them down in writing.

My first thought was on the NPR piece I recently listened to about the rapid decline of the newspaper industry and how they are only staying afloat with money brought in by the parent companies through other holdings such as for-profit college programs. So, if the words of Baha'u'llah are relevant for this day and newspapers are disappearing at rapid rates, I'm inclined to look at this quote as referring to all forms of media rather than just newspapers (but of course, who am I to say what Baha'u'llah must have meant?)

If no one is reading newspapers, who is the media now? Where do people get their information? Well, for most of my friends, it's the web. And I'm not talking CNN.com. I'm talking facebook and blogs. When you type the term "media" into Google Images, the bulk of the images are of social networking logos. With no television, I rely on NPR and facebook. Seriously, I have no idea what's going on unless someone posts it on their blog or facebook. Then I Google it and get the full story from a legitimate news source (if such a thing exists).

So this got me thinking about who really is the media for this day. Last year a major media award went to an anonymous individual(s) who shot the footage of the Iranian woman, Neda, dying of a gunshot wound during a protest. That footage came from some one's cellphone and was uploaded on youtube and the person who uploaded it won an award for journalism even if they never stepped forward to claim it. This tells me that in this new era, we are all part of the media. If you type it into twitter, it becomes part of the Library of Congress, and you are officially part of the recording of history (albeit in a shallow and superficial way). So what you put out there matters. If you participate in social media at all, you are, on some level, part of what I would call the media. If you post a link, you are spreading news. If you blog about current events, someone is getting their news and views from you.

This sudden realization carries with it a bit of weight if you are a believer in Baha'u'llah's words. I suppose even if you are not, you can appreciate the power of mass communication and with this new perspective on your role in the dissemination of information you may feel compelled to guard your tongue (or more accurately, your typing fingers) with a bit more restraint. You should be clear about what you type, ensure that you are sharing accurate information, and understand that even if only 50 people read your words, you are playing a role in shaping the attitudes and understandings of your peers.

A few months back I received an e-mail from one of my blog readers calling me the "alpha mom" (which I loved) and saying that she feels more confident in her parenting when she reads my blog and gets ideas for her family from someone she trusts. Whoa! When my new media revelation hit me, that e-mail was right there staring me in the face. I am some one's go to source when it comes to parenting and that means that what I say matters whether it's my personal opinion on a math curriculum or my thoughts on the latest kids' movie. Maybe it only effects that one woman and the way she interacts with her kids, but isn't that enough of a reason to be cautious and use the power of the web with care? This blog gets, on average, about 80- 120 visitors per day. Even though those numbers make my mom think she's got a celebrity for a daughter, they are pretty pathetic in the blogging world. But like I said, even if I had 3 readers a day, that would be 3 chances to use my little corner of the web for the promotion of good or for the promotion of biased and inaccurate information.

We all have strong opinions or we wouldn't be here. We also feel that what we know could help someone else. And that's why we post, right? So it is with love that I urge you, be careful my blogging, facebooking, and tweeting friends. While it feels like your comment on someone else's way of life or a company's policy is only being read by your nearest and dearest, you very well may have a part in the mirroring of this world. Lets be a force of love and light for the few people who are paying attention to what we say.

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