Twisted perceptions in the digital age

Octavia Nasr

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In a time where every event has to be covered live down to its most boring detail, we find ourselves oversaturated with more information than we ever need. Such as what the neighbors had for lunch or where total strangers spent vacation.

The digital space has been invaded by real life people seeking the fantasy of belonging to an age where strangers become close friends and family bonds (or lack of) are measured by “Likes,” “follows” and small talk across the oceans or across the street; and sometimes, unfortunately, across the room and across the same sofa we’re sitting on.

With the passing of every day, the chatter is turning into noise and a waste of time and energy for those who are truly trying to stay in touch.

Octavia Nasr

The digital space today belongs to corporations selling products or services, celebrities amassing fans and governments and organizations brainwashing the masses. Not to forget a few still trying to make a difference in their community or in the world.

In a time where people feel they must give their assessment on everything from their mundane neighborhood to national politics, regional developments and world events, empty talk overflows; in many instances drowning out real experts with real points of view, warning of real problems and tackling real issues.

Abundance of opinion

Opinion has not been any cheaper than it is today! Opinion-seekers, breathless after anything to fill pages and airwaves, find abundance in this newfound digital space that opened worlds of voices, thoughts and actions that make the world seem like it’s evolving when in fact it is simply movement in place.

With the passing of every day, the chatter is turning into noise and a waste of time and energy for those who are truly trying to stay in touch.

I have spent a lot of time in the digital universe trying to keep my pulse on what’s happening on the ground. There used to be a time when activists used the Internet to bypass censorship and be heard across borders.

I am an early adopter of the new technology, an advocate of social media and a believer in its power to connect us and make us more knowledgeable, more tolerant and more compassionate.

New media

I’m one of the first journalists to integrate what we term ‘new media’ in traditional news gathering and reporting. But, I am finding it harder to tune out the disruptive noise.

It concerns me that we are becoming desensitized in the way we deal with events happening virtually in front of our eyes. What was supposed to be a way to make us informed about far away places through the eyes of those living the events, has become a sanitized view of tragedies in the comfort of our own home or office, or on the go through our small mobile screens, between online games, chats and mass marketing junk emails.

Not to mention real-life duties and chores. Between jokes and pictures of meals, sunsets and selfies, we consume propaganda from many sides, along with a few informed opinions mixed in with a lot of ignorant speculation.

Add to it those who feel they must constantly comment to keep themselves relevant or to get the attention of media organizations hungry for any theories to fill their live blogs to entertain and ‘inform’ the masses.

The result? Guesses and estimates sway the attention away from the human suffering, the deaths, injuries, injustices, refugees, human rights abuses and many crucial issues that deserve our attention and action!

Like others, I find myself slowly retreating from the digital space as I’ve experienced it for the past ten years. In my search for new, more reliable venues and methods to get the news, I’m quietly discovering many interesting things. But there is no doubt that the masses are tuned in, in a big way, to the old ‘new media!’

This article was first published in Annahar on July 30, 2013


Multi-award-winning journalist Octavia Nasr served as CNN’s senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, and is regarded as one of the pioneers of the use of social media in traditional media. She moved to CNN in 1990, but was dismissed in 2010 after tweeting her sorrow at the death of Hezbollah’s Mohammed Fadlallah. Nasr now runs her own firm, Bridges Media Consulting, whose main aim is to help companies better leverage the use of social networks.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.