We read, then we feel

As I was scrolling through social media, I found a post on a controversial topic (as we typically encounter these kind of posts everyday), and right after reading some of my friend’s opinion, I proceeded to read the rest of  the comments. Many of the comments were mean, showing that most of the time people is willing to fight at the minimum provocation.

This got me thinking about how I tend to do this a lot (check the comments on controversial posts) and most of the time, it leaves me with a bitter taste and a negative feeling that sometimes remains for the rest of my day. 

Then I asked myself: Why do I do this to myself? A question that also got me thinking about the significance of what we read, what we consume, and how it can affect… and connect us.

You are what you read

The current virus situation and lockdown life highlighted the effect of bad news and gossip on my family, especially my mom. The information we choose to consume and believe can make us feel calm, anxious and everything in between. It comes with a certain amount of personal responsibility.

When my mom received one of those sensationalist chain messages from whatsapp, she started to wonder if we were cleaning the groceries properly. When she watched the news, she worried if we needed to buy new face masks, etc. That put the whole house in the same mindset, making anxious and sometimes mad with each other.

I’ve reflected on the time I spend on social media -which, by the way, according to The New York times, has increased since this lockdown- , and the information I receive and choose to share with my friends and family on whatsapp, and how we should be more aware of the impact all of this has on our emotions. Not only in small groups like my family, but on bigger scales and social layers.

Yes, there’s our personal responsibility towards what we decide to read and consume, but there’s also towards what we decide to share and what we decide to comment. We’ve been told that information is power, but what kind of information and how much of it should we consume? What role does it play when getting through difficult times?

“When you are online, try to consume wisdom and knowledge, not information.” 

-Pepe Villatoro, Fuckup Inc. CEO

It goes beyond reading as an activity and includes the visual content we’re exposed to (or bombarded with) daily on every channel that media is able to reach us with. This is a problem that even the WHO itself has recently recognized as an “infodemic”.

We live what we read

According to the Open Education Database, reading about experiences is almost the same as living them, the same neurological regions are activated, blurring the lines between both ways of learning.

This amazing process happens each time we read a novel, a blog post, an interview, gossip, etc. Your mind connects with what you are reading to “help” you believe you are living it too.

According to that same article by OEDB, spoken word can put our brains to work. When we’re told a story, not only are the language processing parts of our brains activated, experiential parts of our brain come alive, too. This also happens with all the things we hear during the day. Researcher Jeremy Hsu states “Personal stories and gossip make up 65% of our conversations.” and this also helps our brains to exercise.

Have nice conversations with your family and friends, or even a little gossip. Remember to surround yourself with optimistic, yet realistic information, so you don’t get significantly affected by traumatic experiences that you (actually didn’t) live.

Developing empathy

Deep reading (novels and books)makes us more empathetic. We tend to enjoy deep reading that allows us to feel what characters in a story feel. And this in turn makes us more empathetic to people in real life, becoming more aware and conscious of the lives of others, creating human connections through words.

With this in mind, it comes as no surprise the feeling of connection we have with characters in books, and the real people in impactful stories and news.

This is what makes us human, the power to empathize with each other through information and storytelling. We’ve always known this tool was powerful and have been developing it since we painted bison on stone walls.

Personally, after realizing this, I understood the importance and responsibility to choose wisely what we read and view. If storytelling is so powerful when it comes to empathy, what is the effect of hateful comments and content?

Let’s be aware of how certain information makes us feel, and how much power we allow a book, article, video or comment section on social media to have over us. Let’s rethink the routines we have created for consuming information, which ones are making you feel bad?

Ileana Castro

Ileana Castro

People & Admin

Following the best practices of failure by doing business with her best friend. At this moment, she is leading the People area in Fuckup Inc. helping people breaking free from their paradigms. Loves long and deep conversations, long walks, traveling, and swimming.

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