Where Is Your Focus?

George Orwell worried that a totalitarian government would censor the news. Aldous Huxley worried that nonstop entertainment would drown it out. Ray Bradbury saw a future in which people willingly destroyed ideas. Our modern dystopia takes a little bit from each.

With the internet and smartphones, we are constantly surrounded by information. 100 years ago, you could read your local paper to learn about the big stories of your community, and perhaps a national paper to keep up on major stories. 75 years ago you turned on the TV to the evening news to learn what was important. Even 25 years ago, with 24/7 cable news beginning to dominate, “the news” was something you checked once a day and then went on with your life.

Today, news is pervasive, and the definition of news has been expanded to mean the sort of gossip that would have been considered shallow and superfluous within living memory. Social media algorithms are designed to keep you staring at a screen as long as possible, so they bombard you with stories that are designed to keep you in a state of outrage. This gives one the impression that everything you read is not only of utmost importance, but unprecedented, because this sort of coverage simply didn’t exist before.

Things have always happened. It’s a feature of existence since the dawn of time. Yet for most of human history, only the most important things have been publicized. Now that we have access to every piece of information from throughout the world at our fingertips 24/7, we naturally try to fit it together into a coherent narrative.

Solar eclipses happen regularly, once every 18 months on average, and have since the beginning. They are so predictable that ancient astronomers were able to chart them to the minute without calculators or computers. Yet that hasn’t stopped numerous bloggers and content creators from crafting a narrative that next week’s eclipse is somehow unique or a harbinger of the end times. Clickbait like that counts on the increasingly short attention spans of 21st century Americans.

Pick any issue, focus on it, and it can seem like an unprecedented epidemic. George Floyd was a career criminal who died in police custody while under the influence of who knows how many drugs. It’s a scene that probably plays out fairly regularly in certain areas of our country, unfortunately, but because news media chose to focus on it, it became an international story and sparked a mass movement that resulted in tremendous death and destruction.

Surviving in this information-drenched world means being able to separate the signal from the noise. Just because something is trending on Twitter, or for that matter the lead story on the evening news, does not mean it is necessarily worth your time and mental energy. You have to ask yourself: are you a spectator, watching the news for entertainment? Or are you an activist, working to change your community and your nation?

I don’t want to be a mere spectator. There are many issues that compete for my attention, but I’ve chosen to to be deliberate about my focus. I want to write about issues that directly affect our communities and our state while letting others cover the rest. I don’t need to write about the WHO, the WEF, the vaccine, or what George Soros had for lunch. I would rather focus on the structure of the Idaho Republican Party, which is on the vanguard of politics in Idaho, issues that affect our day-to-day lives, and the men and women who will be making the decisions that set the course of our state for generations to come.

Everyone knows who the president is, and who is running for that office this year. Most people probably know at least one of our senators or congressmen. How many know the names of their three legislators? How about their city council members or county commissioners? Your mayor has more influence over your day-to-day life than the president, but that’s not as exciting on TV.

It goes back to the serenity prayer. First you must learn to separate the things you can control from the things you cannot, and then devote your limited time and energy to areas in which you can actually make a difference. Imagine what Idaho could be if all the voters who turn on the news for entertainment every night actually started attending GOP committee meetings and writing letters to their legislators.

It is all too easy to allow a torrent of information to lull you into inaction, even if you feel like you’re in the game. Find your focus, then make a difference.

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