We curate our world. Now, more than ever before, we can chose what we consume and when. Don’t like something? You can silence, mute and unfollow. Whether it be fashion, flowers or football you’re into, with a couple of clicks you can create an online happy place for yourself.
We’re niche experts, communicating across the globe with our comrades in interest. A global community, where we can find acceptance no matter how our real world treats us.
But, and hear me out here, it’s crucial that we don’t blinker ourselves to the rest of the world. The not-so-nice affairs of ‘everyone else’, left ignored, will eventually infiltrate our perfect bubbles. And by then, it’ll be bloody hard to claw back any ground.
Let’s take the orange-haired elephant in the room as an example. Our friend Donny. Mr. President. Whatever you call him (I like ‘ginger eejit’ personally, being Irish), his impact over the last eighteen months has been … a metaphorical punch in the face to many.
‘This isn’t America’. Twitter is full of this plea, this assurance, this prayer. But wait, this is America. This has been America for immigrants, for Americans of colour and minorities, for poor Americans, for female Americans, for LGBTQI+ Americans. You know who’s shouting about this being ‘not America’? The white Americans. The Americans who’ve never had the world’s eyes look on in such horror and be held responsible. Who’ve largely never been impacted by the ‘real’ America.
And I’m not here to crap on the States. It’s a global issue. On the world stage, Ireland was seen as a good Catholic country, full of happy leprechauns until we started talking about the babies dumped in sewers by religious orders, our huge exportation of crisis pregnancies and general systemic misogyny and racism. But other than that? Sound bunch of lads, altogether!
Brexit was a result of the English being fed fear for a decade – the EU, the immigrants, Angela Merkle, just pick your scapegoat for almost every issue of the day.
And we act so surprised. Every bloody time. But lads, we just weren’t looking outside our bubble.
The last US election was what woke me up to this.
I will openly say that I live in a left-wing corner of the internet. My Twitter feed is full of, what I see as, the badass’. The feminists, the gay activists, the travellers, the fashion industry journalists (who are often conservative but like to pretend otherwise).
Long-story-short, in the run-up the the Clinton/Trump face-off, I was fairly confident. Now I’ve spent a horrible week in middle America (heeeeeey Omaha!!), I had a searing reality check and ran home to Ireland screaming. But my entire bubble was all about the Hillz. The good guy (aka, best of a bad bunch) would prevail.
But then the count began. I sat on my couch in Toronto and watched in horror as those states filled up with red. I shut my laptop, went to bed and put my faith in the Gods.
And then I woke up. And the world was brash and ginger and terrible. And I was shocked.
Wrongly so. The signs were there. The news outlets, that I’d tuned out in my selective stream of current affairs, were calling this to be close. Central America was vocally Red in the hopes of being noticed after eight years under those damn liberals. And they were out in numbers (not so significant numbers as Clinton but take that up with the Electoral College!).
But my lesson was learned. Because I was ill-informed, I didn’t get to be shocked. I didn’t do the work. I allowed myself to be lured into a false sense of scrunchie-security. But never again …
So I … painfully … unmuted those traditionally right-wing heads that I’d silenced so happily. Now I read the nasty comments under my badass icons’ posts. I actively search for the ‘dark side’. Because it’s always there, and forewarned is forearmed folks!
Our global situation is too dicey to ignore in a sea of make-up tutorials, Beyonce frenzies and (my personal favourite) pet-shaming accounts. We have a responsibility to stretch ourselves. Even a little bit.
I’m not saying I sit down and read every newspaper written in English (critical thinking with news outlets is so important, btwzz). But follow the journalists who are getting into the thick of things, who are telling the hard stories. Keep some key politicians on your roster (from both sides of the aisle). Expand your outlook to further afield than Europe and North America. For God’s sake, keep an eye on Russia!
If you’re reading this and thinking ‘hmm I could do more to stay in the know’, it’s time to recognise your privilege. It’s a privilege to be able to ignore, to deem current affairs ‘too much’. A blind eye can always be turned if it doesn’t directly impact you.
You know, how concentration camps didn’t affect the day-to-day lives of many Germans. How the Laundries didn’t impede the goings-on of a lot of ‘decent’ Irish. How the rise of the right wing wasn’t cause for pause for many middle-class, white people the world over.
You don’t have to go searching for news. It can be easily accessed, right there between a Jenner and a … insert soccer pundit here (I’m nothing if not honest!). But please, don’t ignore it. Yes, following Trump might bring you to the verge of an ulcer, but better an ulcer than, you know, surprise nuclear war.
We are all responsible for our own education. Maybe you do that through travel or reading or listening to podcasts. But never again let it be said that we ‘didn’t know’ or that we ‘didn’t see it coming’. We need to be aware and we, as young people, need to be part of the conversation.
It’s our world that’s being formed. If we choose to have children, they’ll grow up facing the environment we created. History will repeat itself if we decide that the past is in the past. Like fashion, our political decisions are cyclical. But some trends we definitely need to have outgrown. Otherwise we don’t get to be shocked when hindsight comes to bite us in the ass.