The Privilege Of Paying Attention

News can sometimes be uncomfortable and painful, but paying attention to so-called faraway places is important because only then can we have a peaceful, knowledgeable and cooperative world.

October 25, 2023 00:42 EDT
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Dear FO° Reader,

There is an interesting trend on social media to “tune out for your mental health.” We are encouraged to look away when the news becomes too heavy or burdensome. We are told to share something unrelated and positive, not to spread “negativity.” 

Credit: Serhii Yurkiv / shutterstock.com

Of course, there are always instances where social media breaks are necessary. But we neither can nor should ignore the world for long. It is a vital task to learn how to read, hear and see uncomfortable news to become an informed citizen and remember that we are all connected. Global news is not just negative; it is also reality.

A global issue or conflict is not happening in an imaginary, far-off place. It is happening on Earth, to our fellow human beings. People from my country, the United States, have a bad tendency to dismiss global events as “not an American issue.” But we, just as much as anyone else, have a responsibility to understand and to respond to the world.

Nothing happens in a vacuum. Global events are domestic issues. If we pay attention to history, we learn that many international conflicts are interconnected with our own. The world will affect us whether we like it or not, and history does not start when we begin to pay attention or stop when we don’t. 

Credit: ritthikrai.w / shutterstock.com

It is a privilege that I can consume the news from the safety of my own home. I have the time and space to form my opinion, develop media literacy and dialogue with others. As a human being, it is hard to witness violence of any kind, even from a distance — but if we all decide to turn away, who will remember?

How will we move forward to a more peaceful global landscape if everyone collectively decides to tune out? Human life, no matter how far away it may seem, matters. Turning away and deciding that something in another country is not our problem or is too much to witness is dehumanizing. 

We will never learn the impact of violence and conflict if we decide it’s too negative to pay attention to, and we risk letting it continue. 

The importance of a varied perspective 

My time at Fair Observer has made global issues incredibly human to me. I can hear directly from the source through various stories I have read and edited. This is vital in our current media landscape, where context, personal perspectives and dialogue are often replaced with hard- and fast-opinions and sensational news clips. 

Even when the stories are hard to read, hear or see, tuning into the news is the first step. The next step is to train ourselves to seek varied perspectives, develop media literacy and learn historical context. 

We must stop considering the reality of our global landscape as negative or a topic not to be discussed at the dinner table. We must keep paying attention to what is going on in the world if we want a more peaceful, knowledgeable and cooperative world. 

Yours sincerely,

Lane Gibson
Assistant Editor
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