As a young, intelligent woman navigating her way through life in the Information Age, there are certain norms I try to establish for myself so as to stay current and relevant.
I probably miss the mark most often in checking the news.
Like many working individuals who are too lazy to get up earlier than is absolutely necessary, I don’t have time to watch the news and get my daily ten minute fill of local or national happenings. And like even more individuals living in a city, I don’t drive to work, and thus don’t listen to the radio.
Encouraged by my boyfriend, who is annoyingly omniscient about everything technology-related, I began subscribing to RSS feeds in order to follow my favorite blogs and reputable news sites.
For anyone who is not familiar, an RSS feed is a computer codey-thingy that you click and any new content will be sent directly to your reader. Hands down, finding new websites and blogs and clicking ‘Subscribe’ is the best part, because I usually spend about 1.34 minutes scrolling through the site, distracted by all the pretty colors, shapes, funky fonts, and witty headlines. I then think to myself, “Oh yeah. This is smart and fresh and engaging. I am going to LOVE reading their updates every day.”
The downside is falling into this wormhole of subscribing, then a couple of hours later coming to the appalling realization that I’ve subscribed to exactly 73 Brooklyn blogs, 42 natural hair blogs, and 8 news sites and now I have to actually read it all.
Every day I fall behind, that’s another 350 articles. It quickly becomes overwhelming, but I can’t abandon it now, because then what would I do when I’m on a crowded bus and have no elbow space with which to read a book? I am certainly not going back to that dark place to re-download That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Played after finally deleting it a month ago, am I? The candy isn’t worth it, Carla. No, not even the striped ones. Focus.
If you’re horrified by the prospect of hundreds of RSS feeds demanding to be checked, then perhaps you should start on a smaller scale.
Allow me to introduce Tumblr. While you have probably visited the site from time to time, led there by a funny link shared by a friend on Facebook or via Twitter, the experience is completely different when you have a username and an active dashboard. Tumblr is a blogging platform in which you can follow as many other bloggers as you like, and the quality of the bloggers you follow dictates the quality of the pictures, articles, movie clips, and other media that you encounter on your dashboard. It’s incredibly fun and dangerously addictive.
One of the most provocative aspects of Tumblr is the social justice bloggers’ movement. This is exactly what it sounds like: Tumblr users who use their mini-platform, their microscopic soapbox within a sea of 0s and 1s, to loudly and vociferously protest against the myriad inequalities in society and, by extension, on the internet. It has become an accepted fact on Tumblr that for every humorous post that gently pokes fun at a certain demographic, there will be violent backlash from the group targeted, or another group that empathizes for who they perceive as the victim.
I follow my share of blogs that serve no real intellectual or edifying purpose: fandom-centered, humorous gif-centered, sarcastic text-post-centered, you name it; I’ve laughed at it and reblogged it. That said, I am still concerned with the development of my mind and soul; I strive to find bloggers who discuss things happening in our society from culturally and ethnically sensitive perspectives. I am thankful for the blogs that I do follow that are written by individuals who continually question and challenge traditionally-held views and who encourage me to do the same.
However, when this sensitivity begins to permeate every post I read, every image I see, it can often skew my initial reaction. I have found myself on multiple occasions wondering, “Should I be offended by this?” And that, I think, is when I know I am swiftly approaching the point of no return. Fortunately, I can still recognize the difference between justified outrage and contrived overreaction; informed humor and a misogynistic joke.
Most importantly, I can simply walk away from my computer when someone on the internet is wrong. I can’t understate the importance of this skill.
Will I ever be the social media maven I dream of becoming, up-to-the-minute on local concerts and the rapidly-changing situation in Syria? Probably not. But I can assure you that I will learn something new every day, even if it is just another question. (Seriously, what DOES the fox say?)
This post appeared on The Penny Ledger on September 18, 2013.