The explosion of “fake news” is largely because people have learned to respond to emotion instead of clear thought. It is easy to see something sensational, feel anger or outrage, offense or even incredulity, and then share that “news” with peers to compare one’s own reaction to others. The problem occurs when we don’t pause to consider what it is we are really seeing or reading. We don’t ask ourselves if it is reasonable, reliable, probable or even possible.
We don’t take a moment to read a full article or statement in context, or process an image to understand its meaning. We have allowed emotion to rule us and have become a reactive society. The folks that propagate fake stories know this. They know that the public, in large part, will not take the time to check the validity of a story or whether a picture has been photo-shopped before ignorantly posting or tweeting it out. Thus we get perpetual garbage being passed around Twitter, Facebook and even making it to legitimate news outlets.
There is an acronym in both DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) and CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) which people everywhere would be wise to employ. It is simply:
S. T. O. P.
- S. Stop! Do not just react. Freeze! Don’t move a muscle. Emotions can make one act or speak without thinking things through. Stay in control.
- T. Take a step back. This can be literally or figuratively. Let go of the thing that is causing the emotion and remove yourself, either physically or mentally, from the situation.
- O. Observe. Notice what is going on internally with your emotions and externally around you. Instead of being the first to react or opine, observe how others are behaving.
- P. Proceed mindfully. When thoughts are clear and reactions can be modified and controlled, one is capable of behaving in a rational manner. One becomes the “adult in the room” and may avoid being used as someone else’s means to an end. *
So much of who we are as individuals, depends on the way we interact with others. So much of how our society is formed, is the way we treat one another. So much of what we do is predicated on how we feel and behave. If we feel in control of ourselves we can live honestly. If we can live honestly we can avoid the false and phoniness that is so prevalent in “news,” in our society, in social media, even in some relationships. In a time where rumors and innuendo cause real and imagined crisis, and speculation seems to outweigh true fact, the ability to regulate ones emotions and choose responsible action rather than knee-jerk reactive response is a valuable skill.
Nobody likes to be made a fool of, and nobody should be subjected to fools. We all need to be the adults in the room when it comes to reacting to others and spreading partial truths or fake news. When it comes to being responsible and not reactive, we need first look no further than our own selves.