The 2016 election brought about the recognition that there is a lot a fake news out in the world that people believe is true. Fake News on websites, television and newspapers report on rumor or hearsay without checking if the sources are reliable. Some venues report outright lies about politicians, policy, current events and history. News anchors state their opinions as fact, and even their opinions aren’t based on fact.
People follow fake news because it supports their view of the world. In President Obama’s farewell speech, he said, “For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or college campuses or places of worship or our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions. . . And increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there.”
Curating Our News Feeds
On social media, we cultivate a feed of fake news that supports our narrative of the world with tweets or posts with outrageous headlines such as: Watch this – So-and-so “annihilated” So-and so. The headlines become less true, until they’re outright lies. Even if we don’t click on the link, it sticks with us and our worldview is confirmed through inflammatory headline click bait. Our emotions keep churning and our bodies keep reacting as if we’re under threat. We don’t stop and question it. This exposure affects our mood; we grow angry or hopeless. We may not even be aware that we hate the world as a result of what we are reading on our social media, but it’s there eating away at our brains and our time.
The Writer’s News Feed
What is surprising is that we do this same thing to ourselves. We create our own bubbles, our own fake news feed about us and our writing. As we sit down to work, these thoughts come to the forefront of our minds. They are familiar, so familiar that there is a sense of comfort in their presence. Ah, yes, I know this thought pattern. It’s like a song you loved in high school, perhaps one you listened to while marinating a painful heartbreak. As writers, the lyrics go something like: What am I doing? This really sucks. Why do I bother? No one is ever going to read this. It’s all been written before, and better. I should be a bike messenger.
We become comfortable with that familiar negative loop and we reinforce it by looking for all the threads of information that support it. The deeper the mind gets into this fake newsfeed, the more and more untrue it becomes. We do not stop, we do not investigate, we do not challenge. We spend a lot of time questioning whether we should write, whether we have the ability to write. Sometimes this fake news goes through our brain without us even noticing it, which is dangerous because it is from this place we make decisions, it is from this place we create.
Stop, Breathe, and Write
This is where mindfulness can help. If we pause for a moment, take a breath and look at what our mind is doing, we can stop this before we go spiraling down that fake news feed about ourselves and our abilities. We need to question. We need to challenge, before we start to believe the worst about ourselves. Because when we believe these negative things about ourselves, we become stuck. We make bad choices. We limit ourselves and our world. The more attuned we become to the generation of fake news, the quicker we can catch ourselves. The quicker we can say – That’s not true. I see what you are doing and I’m stopping it right here. I’m not getting on that fake news ride. I’m writing, now shush.