How are you doing now that the 2016 election is over? It’s all done. The decision is made. We know who will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States on Friday, January 20, 2017. All of that energy and anticipation leading up to the most bizarre campaign season in modern history has been spent and dissipated. How are you? Numb? Frustrated? Relieved? Anxious – either positively or negatively? Angry? Worried? Elated? Hopeful? The range of emotions among the electorate is endless.
An important question to ask yourself is “Why do I feel that way?”
I’ve stated many times in this blog that leaders read a lot. They are informed. They know what’s going on in the world, in their profession, and even in several disciplines outside their profession. I’m not the only one to say that, either. This is a tenet of leading – Leaders keep a pulse on a wide variety of topics. This helps leaders relate to others and their interests, and provides better context for big-picture decision making.
There’s a downside to this, though. All that information gathering–news, Web sites, books, and more–on a wide variety of topics can have a negative effect. It’s called “Mean World Syndrome.” George Gerbner coined the term mean world syndrome (MWS) in 2006. It is the phenomenon whereby people who consume mass media “believe the world is more dangerous than it really is.”1
Gerbner’s research was conducted in the early 2000s before most people made the switch to online sources of news. Therefore his work focused on television viewing. Nevertheless, the lesson remains that what we consume for information has a profound effect on our view of the world. It causes people to “think of the world as an intimidating and unforgiving place.” Gerbner found a direct correlation between television watching and “the amount of fear one harbors about the world.”
Consume mass media and you’re more likely to have a negative outlook.
What leader does not want that? And all because he gave up the news for a week.
I had a similar experience about two years ago. In the fall of 2014, I “cut the cord.” Specifically, I turned off my satellite dish and got rid of the television that sat in my home office. I had been a news junkie, passively watching news most of the day, stopping my work to listen to interesting or relevant news. I also read a variety of online news sites. I was certainly informed. I knew what was going on.
Now being “on the other side,” I realize I was anxious. I found it difficult to properly prioritize people over issues. Most importantly, I was less trusting in my heavenly Father.
The bottom line here is that leaders need to pay attention to the information they consume. They also need to be aware of what their followers are consuming. I’m not saying we should be ignorant of our world, but without a steady dose of objective truth from the loving Father, we can’t possibly put the craziness in our world into proper perspective.
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.
All quotes in this article are from the Mean World Syndrome page at Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mean_world_syndrome