Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mentors and Media

Relationships are more important than media, and more powerful. There is an overwhelming amount of children's media that teaches the virtues of sharing, respecting differences in people, and generally living a fit lifestyle. The Great Ideas and endless practicable information about them are out there. So why are there so many problems?

One way of looking at it says that people simply choose to avoid information that they are uncomfortable with. Through a series of harmless personal choices to watch this or that, read that or the other, or favor entertainment over art, we each form habits or "ruts." These habits of media consumption become habits of mind which narrow the individual's field of understanding.

As I wrote in a recent post, the more the Internet enables access to information, the more that most people settle into these ruts. By giving us not only access to media, but also detailed information about its content, information technology enables us to tailor our media diets to what we feel comfortable with. But education is about new and challenging information, and therefore naturally creates discomfort.

My question is, how do people come to feel uncomfortable about certain ideas in the first place? When we are children, we are learning machines. We are curious about everything. Perhaps it is because everything is unknown and therefore uncomfortable that we seek knowledge in our youth. Once we learn a certain amount, we become comfortable with the illusion that we know enough.

If so, then how does discomfort switch from a driving force to a limiting force? The answer lies in relationships. This process begins with an individual's relationship with his parents which is the standard for all future relationships. The stability and level of encouragement found in an individual's family is then impacted by the influence of other relationships outside the home.

The more the members of the family live lives of integrity and truth, the more encouraging and stable the relationship will be. The stronger the relationship is, the more the individual will seek truth instead of comfort, and the less he will be susceptible to peer pressure and fashionable ideas. Essentially, he will be free from the influence of a great deal of cultural rip tide because he will sacrifice short term comforts to the long term peace provided by stability.

In the absence of strong, principle-based relationships, people turn inward and rely upon themselves. Like ships tossed in a storm with no sight of land, these people necessarily fear to change position, preferring the devil they know to the one they don't. Media content that challenges the correctness of an individual's position demands a change in that position. This feels risky to a person who has no perspective outside himself, and so, this information is avoided.

For a free society to flourish, people of lesser life experience need strong mentor-like relationships. Media alone—even at its most truthful—can be easily twisted, avoided, misunderstood, or ignored at the preference of the individual. Without guidance, more media, and more information about media merely tends to make it easier for a person to live in a world of his own making. And if it's not the truth, that's a problem

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