Read newspapers . . .

July 13, 2019

17  comments

because social media is making us dumb

Never before have we had more information at the push of a button and yet society is somehow helpless. We used to rely on the local newspaper or listen to one of three TV stations to report things we needed to know like, “Is it going to storm this week?” “Is there a killer living next door to me?” “Are the fryers on sale at the Piggly Wiggly?” 

We were once a nation of informed, capable adults, but now that we have 4 million news sources, for some reason, we know nothing. We are dumb as boards and helpless as a spotted runt pup.

Of course, you can guess I’m going to come down on the side that newspapers solve all our problems, but honestly, I’ve always been a newspaper reader. My grandparents sent me a $10 bill in a birthday card while I was in college and I used it to get the student rate for the local newspaper. My future husband saw me with the paper and thought I was dreamy smart. That’s the power of the press because I was actually checking for sales at Gayfers, which I think was very smart. 

When my children were young, friends would ask, “How did you know about the story time, puppet show, concert or big ship coming into town?” They were always amazed to know I read about the activities in the newspaper. 

Now that social media floods us with information, things are worse than ever. You can’t believe half of what you read and the details change depending on the source.

Local groups like, “What’s happening in The Town” or “The Old Neighborhood Group” don’t provide information as much as they let us observe the confused and befuddled masses.

“Where can I get a salad?” asked one woman. Really? How did we ever find bowls of lettuce before the internet? “Does anyone know what this is?” they ask beneath a photo of a lizard or a dandelion or a croissant. “What’s a good church around here?” “What should I name my dog?” My favorite was the man who said, “I just moved here from Destin. Can anyone tell me what the best beach around here is?” — “Destin, doofus” was the obvious answer given in various forms over 200 times. Another said, “I just moved here from up North and it’s too hot. Can anyone tell me where to go to snow ski?” Oh . . . they told him. 

Social media has made us helpless. We don’t know how to research anything and would be shocked to learn there’s an actual building in most cities with thousands of books we can read that will educate us beyond anything we’ve ever dreamed. Instead of putting forth an ounce of effort to unearth information on our own, we’ve grown into a population who find it easier for others to do the work for us. We need to award T-shirts that say, “Too lazy to google” and “What’s a library?” or “How can I find a newspaper?”

In a few weeks, helpless parents will ask, “What day does school begin?” and people eager to look knowledgeable will spoon feed them the information instead of just suggesting they visit the school’s web site. Then again, the next question from the clueless parents would be, “How do I find the web site?” If only everyone read the newspaper. 

This story first appeared on AL.com

  • Interesting post! I loved the commenter who said she missed the wedding write-ups. Being from a small town those were quite the thing.
    I have fond memories of my maternal grandmother reading the newspaper from cover to cover. I even brought her my copies from FWB. Being from Range, she read the Monroe Journal, Brewton Standard, and the Evergreen Courant each week from cover to cover and the Mobile Press Register daily. That was her entertainment.
    I must admit I have no subscriptions to papers and think my local one is more of a tabloid than news. I don’t do social media much either, so I am a real scrooge. You are correct in that it seems people can’t get loopier though.

    • “Loopier!” – good one. You are so polite. I remember paniking thinking grown-ups had to read every single story in the paper like an assignment. I was so relieved when my mother explained you could just skim the headlines and read the stories that interested you. I often read Lawrence Specker’s stories on AL.com even if the topic doesn’t sound good because he is such a good writer, that by the time I’m into the second or third line, I’ve suddenly become interested. That’s the kind of journalist we need! (he won’t see this because he doesn’t know who I am even though I wave to him like a rock star when I go to the office).

  • I grew up in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. My parents always had the paper delivered. On Sunday, we would all get up and read the St. Paul paper. When we about went through it, it was my job to go down the block to purchase the Minneapolis paper which we would also read cover to cover. Even at a young age, I devoured the newspaper-although admittedly, I enjoyed the “lifestyles” and “food” sections the best! I just watched Michael Smerconish on CNN on Saturday who was talking about newspapers going under and how alarming that is. In a town of no newspaper-who will call out the school board, the city or anyone in city hall? Investigative journalism with a fair balance is more important now than ever!

    • I agree with you so much! And to relax with a paper is something children now will never understand. They don’t blink and flash like electronics so they’ve tuned them out.

  • Leslie Anne, do you think people were stupid all along and we just didn’t know it?!? Now they have a platform to vomit forth whatever is on their minds. Last night I was trying to read an opinion on a road tax that someone had posted on my Next Door app. It was so long, rambling, and full of misspellings and bad grammar that I honestly don’t know what they said. Whoever said “you can’t fix stupid” was correct!

    PS I’m with you on missing the wedding section. Even as a child I would eagerly read every word…the gowns with hand applied pearls, the silver and china patterns, which darling ladies guarded the guest book. How do little girls dream now about their weddings?

    • Loved your entire comment from beginning to end! I laughed out loud at the first part. Oh . . . the grammar! We all make mistakes, including myself, but seriously. The basics are lost and I always itch to correct them. I have a necklace that actually says, “their, there, they’re” Most people see it and laugh, others can’t understand it. I may need to write a story about the wedding write-ups. I’ve seen some crazy ones!

      • Make sure it contains the camo bridesmaid dresses with cowboy boots!!

        You find the best T-shirt’s. My favorite one still is Spoiler alert…the tomb was empty.

        Just so you know, I’m stalking you on all social media! I’m roxieb52 on Instagram. Is it stalking if the stalker tells the stalkie?!?

  • Hello Leslie…long time no read (on my part). I have missed your blog. I just finished a year-long certification program all while teaching full-time, so reading for pleasure (including the newspaper) has been off my to do list. I actually cancelled my subscription back in January because the stack of unread newspapers was becoming a fire hazard. Luckily, the Goodwill store near me was thrilled when I brought them the fresh mountainous pile of papers as they told me “no one reads the paper” so they ran out of paper to wrap glassware. Now that I have completed my coursework, I have subscribed again. I love the newspaper even though I don’t see eye to eye with all the opinions of the editorial staff. In addition, although sad, through our pool and our sons, we became friendly with the Hiassin family. Rob Hiassin was the assistant editor of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis and was a victim of a mass shooter last year all in the course of doing his job. I believe it is our duty to be informed and have multiple viewpoints where we can critically think and make choices or just to know when the time of the next puppet show at the library.

    • The story of your friend Rob Hiassin was so sad. What a total loss for freedom of speech. I agree that I don’t always see eye to eye with many who write for the papers, including my own, but it always makes me think and see other opinions which is good for everyone. They are very tolerant of my views, so it makes for a balanced publication which people in Alabama seem to like. Glad you finished your coursework. Congratulations! You are a dedicated teacher, and I’m glad you are a reader!

  • Great point. Unfortunately your column appears in the Birmingham/New Jersey edition of Press Register. Very limited local news.
    I recommend Lagniappe as a source for good local news, real in depth. Added advantage, the opinion columns are about non political issues.

    • Thanks, I’ve mentioned to the office workers when I see them (rarely these days- all electronic) that I’d love more local, and I think they’re working on it. John Sharp does great Baldwin Co. coverage. But I miss things like the wedding section. I wish they’d let me do that – woo! What a dream come true to write about Cindy Lou’s wedding! Birmingham, Huntsville and the Press Register are the real deal. Glad you read anyway! Stick with us.

  • Agree with the comments above. I ‘ve always loved holding a book and reading from it and visiting the library. Of course I enjoy reading your stories and since I don’t get the paper it’s published in I’m thankful I can read it online. Life is a balancing act! Keep up the good work!

  • I want a book in hand , a newspaper to
    read, paper the key word ,. The written word before my eyes. The
    printed Bible ,, Websters ,like looking up my on words……call me OLD if you like…I know what I like.

  • I’m a reader, if doesn’t move I’ll read it. I read the news but nothing political cause you can’t believe most of it. Not a TV news watcher either. Books, I love books, I’m always reading, ones from my favorite authors, new ones or I sometimes go back and read some all over again. Gardening, cooking, sewing, art books, just need a big room for them. They are my friends. I love books.
    And you are so right about social media, I think is an addiction.

    • Absolutely an addiction. Even though I write on my computer, I turn off and log out of Facebook most of the time so it isn’t popping up in the background. Email is bad enough to distract me!
      Thanks for the note Sue, and keep on reading!

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