What is propelling outlandish public statements that are becoming increasingly common today?
Could it be they have become a new means for getting media attention and national recognition? Could ridiculous statements be a new avenue for shaking up people’s usual way of thinking to create a revolution? Could it be caused by exasperated people who use outlandishness as an outlet for their frustrations?
On the other hand, could the reason for the bizarreness emanating from so much media, especially online, be a lack of responsibility for not being in better contact with themselves and their surroundings? Perhaps they are in need of making an in-depth examination of conscience to learn more about the factors governing their attitudes and actions.
In Ann Garrido’s book, “#Rules of Engagement: 8 Christian Habits for Being Good and Doing Good Online,” we are encouraged to do some responsible soul searching on the environments governing our thinking, and convictions. She writes, “Open up the social media platform you visit most regularly and, to the degree that you are able, run some analytics.”
She encourages us to ask the following questions: “How many friends do you have? How many are you following? What do you notice about your social media circle? What kind of diversity exists in your circle? Do you have friends/people you are following from different parts of the country? The world? Do you have friends of difference races, religions, generations, political perspectives?”
She concludes this exercise by asking if anyone from our life, past or present, might help broaden the range of voices that we encounter in these online spaces on a regular basis, especially if that person might have valuable life perspectives to offer. And she adds this kicker: “Then check the organizations, causes and news sources that appear most regularly in your social media world or that you are following.”
My guess is that most outlandishness comes from people who do little to learn what exactly is controlling their feelings and attitudes. They are living in a much more closed, provincial world than they imagined. Could it be they need to get a new, more self-aware, more informed, more responsible life?
Father Hemrick is Director of the National Institute for the Renewal of the Priesthood, and a research associate with the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America.