There’s an old journalism adage, “all politics is local.” And another, often in the form of an editor’s admonition: “Readers want to know how the story affects their daily lives.” These days, those stories are sometimes hard to find. They’re all around us, of course, but a tsunami of information and infotainment just seems to drown out our more mundane daily life.
I still vividly recall the first time a teenager told me he was a “citizen of the world.” It was in the early 1990s, and the high school freshman was the son of friends I was visiting in Boston. A citizen of the world, he explained, was someone globally connected to people all around the planet through the magic of the World Wide Web, which was just coming into widespread use.
Today, global communications have proliferated to the point we’re all citizens of the world, enmeshed in a nonstop firestorm of information 24/7. We have more data at our fingertips than our parents could access in a lifetime. Occasionally, it feels as though our whole society has developed a severe case of attention deficit disorder.
In 1920, the average U.S. life expectancy was 58 years. Today, it’s 79. These days, I’d be willing to bet those extra decades are eaten up dealing with the increasing complications of our technically advanced lives, from trying to figure out health insurance and medical billing to how to afford and maintain all our stuff. Then, there’s sitting in traffic. Not to mention deleting spam emails and dodging robocalls. And, who can forget constantly checking Facebook, Instagram and Twitter?
Regardless of how widely our concentration is captured by the nation and the planet, most of us still live locally. We have homes and families, join local organizations, attend schools, drive to work and shop in grocery stores.
Our existence is certainly circumscribed by global news, but on a daily basis, it’s the more routine things – property taxes, rent, CPS Energy and San Antonio Water System rates, the quality of schools and hospitals, traffic congestion, response times of police, fire and paramedics — that have the most direct impact. Voting or volunteering gives each of us a say in society, but ferreting out local information for knowledgeable decision-making can be overwhelming when Facebook is dinging our phone with instant messages and raging tweetstorms dominate the Twitterverse.
It’s no wonder mindfulness is the new buzzword, and meditation apps have monetized serenity. There’s an app for everything – except personal, human interaction. (OK, FaceTime, Skype and the rest may mimic it, but they still haven’t come up with one for touch.) I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve paid memberships to the Daily Calm and Simple Habit, but often don’t get around to meditating. Also, I bought “The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment,” but I haven’t had time to read it all.
Between the national news cycle of tragedy, controversy and scandal, and my friends’ and family’s Facebook feeds and YouTube channels (plus cute cat videos) it’s hard to work mindfulness into a day.
I know, I know … technology has opened many wonderful doors. If I sound like a curmudgeon, I’m likewise grateful for the miracles of universal connectedness, even when it seems like all our modern devices are turning against us. It’s a brave new world indeed, and I’m thankful for all its advantages.
I’m also appreciative there are still great places to find the kind of local news and information to help me know my neighbors and my neighborhood better, and to navigate my day-to-day routines. Thinking globally is great, but acting locally is where it’s at for me.