Is what we are sharing important to the world, or are we just part of the “Heard Mentality”?
Is there a reason we see ourselves simply shouting our quickly formed opinion about the latest news story?
I have begun to think that we have a need that is not being met- the need to be heard above the herd… and I think we can address this Heard Mentality together!

The Heard Mentality

I would love to have the time to fully look into the sociological or psychological effect we are seeing where a news story occurs sparking a need for people to sound off endlessly about their thoughts on it… as if we needed their thoughts.
Having been guilty of it myself as almost an impulse, I have to wonder exactly what it is causing it. Is it a herd mentality? Political mind-shaping? Or something else in our overwhelmed ‘feed' of information that makes us simply cry out to be heard?
Some may say that this is all harmless, but if I were to immortalize the debate of the day that sparked my thoughts on this I am willing to bet we'd all have forgotten. So, really- how important is the topic, really?

The 400-lb Gorilla in The Room

In a year we'll have forgotten, yes- but for the sake of this discussion I'm going to use a Facebook-Frenzied news story regarding a young boy that fell into a habitat of a large gorilla. The gorilla was shot and killed.
harambe the ape grabs a child who fell in the cage
I'm sure that sides and blame formed right on-site, even as the event was being recorded people were probably thinking more about how they would share this and what they would say about it than dropping their phone and taking the risk of getting in the cage.
Literally no-one got in the cage that day, but a good part of Facebook sure had a cage match the next day.
I saw the story, watched a few quick media clips and searched for the facts – should the gorilla have been tranquilized? I saw footage of enraged gorillas who were acting normally until the dart hit them. I saw tear-filled tributes from the mother who for a split second lost control of her very young son and found him in this situation but got him back alive.
Then social media blew up. Questions after-the-fact about whether or not it was more important to risk the life of a small child over an endangered species.
Predictably, response pieces from people like Matt Walsh attempted to re-focus the arguably ridiculous responses to this to that of abortion.
Twitter exploded, and within hours people were talking about… sorry, shouting about things that had nothing to do with the news story at all. A friend of mine even posted that she was tired of hearing about it, that her opinion didn't matter on it and wished it would stop. Among the humorous agreements was one person that couldn't stop themselves. They spouted off all of the things about it that they felt- right there on a person's wall that had specifically said they didn't want to hear it.

What's Wrong With Being Heard?

My above example is not unusual, and we know it. We get ourselves worked up into such a frenzy that we can't help but spout our opinion about the latest news story.

I'll encourage you right now to share this and watch the comments that occur. Even in something like this you'll find people doing what they do best: Polarizing.

And that, my friends, is what is wrong with being heard today. It isn't the fact that you are speaking ‘out' but the fact that you may be serving to polarize people. They are either for you or against you, and you may be unconsciously trying to find out who is who.

I first saw this in 2008 when I started spouting my political thoughts on Facebook. People who had known me for years were suddenly accusing me of being someone they knew for a fact I was not. Some unfriended me… some even made my impersonal arguments and encouragements overtly personal.

Fast forward to 2016 with an even more charged political and polarized environment and it seems to me we have a huge problem. We can't help it. I'm right there with you in this, by the way… we simply feel the need to share stories and give our opinion along with it. We feed the Heard.

So what is wrong with being heard? Mostly that you aren't being heard. You are being herded.

What's wrong with being heard? Mostly that you aren't being heard- you're being HERDed. Share on X

Do what I did- look thru your Facebook history. How many things did you share in the last few weeks that have any impact on anyone's life really? How many others shared the same thing? Do you think any of that is happening by accident?

meme pointing out that news stories are often irrelevant but shared anyway

The reality is that content is being created in a way these days which causes you to form opinions before you even see the facts. So much so, that most copywriters don't even realize they are doing it- they just know they are being successful and repeat the formulas we all see these days. “A boy falls into a gorilla cage. You won't believe what happens next!” read the headlines… While it used to be that we would wait hours or even days to find out what went on- now stories are viral before any of the actual facts are out. People have opinions before they even know what happened… and the worst part is that you and I are helping it occur. We fall so deeply into our own sense of inadequacy that we simply feel a deep-down need to participate… but we do so by sharing other's content. It is fast, it is easy… and until recently I haven't realized just how destructive it can be.

But there is hope. Just like going on a diet, we can change our behavior for the better- and we can start today. Who's with me?

Leave It Better Than You Found It

As usual in this category (Leave it Better) I describe how you may find something, then I point out ways you can Leave it Better Than You Found It!

Refusing to be Herded

The very first thing you need to do is recognize the problem. The problem isn't the content- it is how you feel and react to the content! When you realize there are reasons for that and that they are not being addressed productively it is time to make a decision. You can either keep moving with the herd or forge your own path!

The problem isn't the content- it is how you feel and react to the content! Refuse to be HERDED. Share on X


Here are some things to try:
  • Be wary of your reason for reading stories. If you find yourself looking for what you feel about it above the facts and any actual impact to you personally- stop. Don't participate!
  • Slow Down. Feel the need to share? My advice is to wait for an hour or even a day- see if you still feel like sharing it! You'd be amazed at how much more positive your sharing will become if you let a post marinate for a while!
  • Be aware that much of what poses as news feeds our need to participate – so find other ways to participate instead! Instead of re-posting such stories, how about sharing a positive motivational thought instead?
  • Remove Facebook and other social media platforms from your phone. You will suddenly find you have no reason to look at your phone as often and will literally see the world differently. Your spouse and friends may take some convincing, however- so be prepared to sit uncomfortably watching them scroll thru the newsfeed like zombies. But trust me- it is worth it!
  • Be aware of your reason to engage in debates. If you are feeling a need to be heard above the herd- perhaps it is time to launch a blog or some other form of permission-based or subscription based platform to feed this desire. This is so much better than pelting your friends with your opinions – something I need to get better about. Address the need to be heard and you'll find yourself being heard more productively. As a side effect- your writing may improve as well!
  • Filter your feed. With all the noise out there, what is ‘trending' may be overshadowing the news or stories you actually want to see. Facebook and other platforms are spending millions making predictive algorithms to place what you want to see in front of you. Use it! Click those little black ‘x' marks next to stories that don't bring you value. Resist the urge to share things that make you upset. Be careful the words of who shared the content and what the content could be categorized as before you hit that ‘like' button. Facebook is watching, and this one really does work!
  • Don't be afraid to Unfollow. You don't have to sever a relationship with someone that is just not getting it, or is constantly irritating you with stories that don't matter or are polarizing in nature. On Facebook and Twitter, I freely unfollow people I know (and definitely those I don't) and am very picky about who I see posts from first. Don't confuse this with removing friends- which I'll talk about next. My rule here is that if I want them to see what is going on in my life and I'm willing to occasionally look in on their lives as well manually (not relying on the Newsfeed) then Unfollow is a good choice, and I even have some friends that cleaned up their act and I'm now following again! Be willing!
  • Unfriend people you don't trust. This is hard for me- but recently I've been realizing just how many people I don't know and don't even trust have access to a LOT of information about my life. Just unfollowing them isn't enough in these cases- they have to go completely! I know it is hard, but if you are friends with someone on Facebook that is toxic- they have to go!
  • Adjust your visibility for posts. When Google+ introduced the concept of circles, Facebook was quick to respond with the similar ability to choose who can see your posts. This is something I do frequently and has definitely been helpful to maintaining relationships on Facebook. I generally don't say anything with a ‘Public' share that reveals anything too personal or opinionated- basically anything I'd say on Twitter. Every time I've made the mistake of going too far, I find out just how many people see it- in fact my last blunder was seen more by people who follow me but are not friends with me! Awkward! More importantly, though is to be selective of your audience when you are sharing. I created a “Non-Political” group years ago that I use to tell Facebook to Hide posts from that may spark the wrong kind of discussions. It takes a bit of work, but trust me- WORTH IT!
  • Share Personal Things, Not Viral Things. This is probably the most important tip of all. Remind yourself frequently that you are one voice among literally millions. Your friends will value pictures of your new fish or your new project far above that viral thing about that presidential candidate that you just had to share. Trust me- they're seeing it elsewhere. So make an effort! Share things about your own life instead and see the results!
Share Personal things, not viral things. Share on X

Obviously this is just a one-morning rambling post filled with a non-definitive list of things that work for me, or are in progress for me. But I would LOVE to hear from you. What works for you? How are you committing to be more positive online and be Heard above the Herd?

If this post was meaningful for you- please share it with your thoughts! As you can guess that is the ONLY way people will hear about it!