Did that headline grab you? Was it salacious and provocative enough to get you reading this? If so, then I’ve proved my point. You’re probably too busy to read and digest this anyhow, so here it is in snack-sized sound bite form: The U.S. is getting sound bitten in the ass.
I know I’m getting sound bitten to death. You are too, whether or not you realize it. And I’m not blaming politicians and their PR spin masters for it. Nor am I blaming mainstream media or irresponsible social media abusers. I blame us all.
Our addiction to constant connectivity and urgent electronic communication has overwhelmed our brains. It seems the more information we consume, the less details we extract that inform our sensibilities. Information overload is chipping away at our collective common sense and is polarizing our society.
Today, it’s not the quality of the content that matters as much as how fast we consume it. Irresponsibly relying on fast food content means we nosh on sound bites and swallow them as truth, then form our opinions. I’d rather see us make time to ingest smaller gourmet meals of content and digest them to inform our personal truths.
We used to shape our individual belief and value systems after digesting thousands of words on hundreds of pages in dozens of books, newspapers and magazines. Today, details slow us down in a multitasking, fast-paced world that keeps shrinking our attention spans. When force-fed toxic sound bites in 140-character tweets and 6-second videos, it becomes more difficult than ever for us to differentiate fact from sound-bite fiction.
Many therapists used to counsel their patients to only read the Sunday newspaper if they wanted to be happier. Their rationale was that if something big or bad was happening in the world during the other days of the week, you would hear about it. So imagine the damage 24-hour cable news cycles and internet have done to our collective psyche. No wonder more people are on anxiety meds and antidepressants and getting diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) than ever before.
The information barrage is overwhelming, the negativity unrelenting and the sound bites that spark our emotions are increasingly inflammatory. They have to be salacious to get our attention in our ADD world. The more mean-spirited the content, the more raw emotion it stirs up, begging us to regurgitate and share information virally.
Despite believing more good than bad exists on our planet, I still find myself sound bitten with negativity. It is contagious, like Zika or other plagues that alarm us.
I worry that a constant blizzard of warnings, regardless if they are well intentioned as a public service or crafted hyperbole to sell media, have desensitized us to become electronic crying wolves. Weather has become an “event” and sound bites have become so exaggerated that society may fail to recognize the severity between a “snowmageddon,” “snowpocalypse” or a “sharknado.”
Sound bites lie like snakes in the grass waiting to sneak up on us and inject their toxic rhetoric. Careful consideration of the content we consume and how we consume it keeps us safe. It flushes the poison out of the grass and our brains.
To keep yourself and our nation from getting sound bitten in the ass again, never abdicate your fundamental right to think and speak in a free society. The irony of thinking for ourselves is that we begin to consider the views and welfare of others. Human empathy returns as does the only other effective antidote for poisonous sound bites: common sense.