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Published on January 1st, 2014 | by Wyatt Trapp

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Who Needs ‘ Doing ’ When I’ve Got a Newsfeed Full of ‘Caring’?

Who Needs ‘Doing’ When I’ve Got a Newsfeed Full of ‘Caring’?

Circle of Influence

Do you remember that bumper sticker that came out in the 90’s with the three simple words “SHOOT YOUR TV”?  I remember it well, and I remember loving it.  I loved the simplicity in its call to action, and I can attest that it had a measurable effect on that very thing — my actions. It was as though it gave me permission.  Permission to do what I instinctively knew was the better thing, metaphorically of course.  So, much to my children’s chagrin, I SHOT MY TV!  It’s not that I came home one day with some draconian decree for my household, but you can bet the hours with the power button “on”, dropped precipitously.

I’m fully aware that there is a larger conversation here.  The research is vast and varied regarding the ills as well as the benefits of TV, and you can link to countless resources and studies from Wikipedia alone.  One thing is for sure, though:  TV is tantalizing.  But is it just TV?  Now we have to consider the much wider world of the internet and it’s passenger, the beloved social media.

As social entrepreneurs and activists, honest conversation around the amount of time we spend in front of a screen is paramount.  Time is precious, and we want to be sure that what we are doing isReal Good, not Feel Good!  Never mind that “media” is perfectly engineered to capture and hold our attention, the fact is, there is a deep payoff for us when we give ourselves to it – a payoff that may not actually be relevant to our stated goals and dreams.

Say for example, Facebook punditry.  A social/political discussion ensues when an outspoken friend throws up a post.  We engage with our intellect when we take a stand for what we believe.  We get the satisfaction from articulating an idea.  We get our compassion fix when we advocate for the poor and downtrodden.  We satisfy our emotions with every like, share or post.

In Steven Covey’s timeless work on self improvement and leadership, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, The first habit is “Be Proactive”.  Within this idea of being proactive, he address the difference between our circle of concern as it contrasts with our circle of influence.  You can care about poverty, but it doesn’t mean you’ve done anything to alleviate it.  Poverty can be in your circle of concern, but only relevant action in relationship with the poor proves it to be in your circle of influence.  Isn’t it telling, that if you are only operating within your circle of concern — where all of the emotions and feelings associated with your goals are in play, and you can feel like you are working toward your goals — that you, in fact may not be being proactive?

So here’s a question.  With any of this time spent in front of the media screen, are you actually operating within your circle of influence?  Or, are you only operating within your circle of concern and feeding off of the emotions that make it feel like your exerting influence on the world around you?

Take the previous example.  Think about how much media energy is focused on political agendas alone, and how much screen time one could spend in the social/political arena, with FB punditry, or yelling at the “fools” on that “other” news channel.   Yet, unless you are actively campaigning, organizing, or functioning in office, the 30 minutes it takes to vote every couple of years is the only time that you actually effect change in that arena.  And even then. your influence is questionable. To vote for someone who promises to allocate money to the poor, does not count as an act of compassion.  Acts of compassion count as compassion.

So let’s ask ourselves:  Does this time I spend engaging media — with my mind and heart open totheir values – actually leverage my time and talents to bring the realities of the Kingdom of God to bear?  Or am I settling for Feel Good  activities that aren’t worth a plug-nickel?

Wyatt Trapp

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