Tuesday, August 09, 2022 | Muharram 10, 1444 H
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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

A shift in social behaviour

The “I don’t get it, I’m not interested” approach to news disengagement.


News avoidance is on the rise. There are many reasons for such a shift in social behaviour, one of which is a lack of trust. The mistrust stems from political, business, and other interested parties interfering in the news context. So, it is not surprising that the 'avoiders' are mostly among the young people.


Two other reasons for news avoidance relate to a significant disparity in income and education. If one cannot understand the news, or there are other priorities rather than reading about glossy summits, then, social media can provide quick and entertaining information according to the person’s social and economic status. TikTok and Instagram are doing a great job in holding on the attention of those 18-24 years old.


Who can blame the less educated or young people when the world is turning upside down with no clear direction? This avoidance could also be a result of the dramatic changes that are happening around us while creating political apathy and reluctance to disagreement.


Looking back to understand today’s world we need to re-visit some events from the past. One of them is the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. It had its objective to reconcile economic development with the protection of the environment. It was the largest earth summit with 117 heads of state and representatives of 178 nations. They all have committed to the cause — they all promised. What have they delivered? The Brazilian Amazon deforestation this 2022 has exceeded its own record of area destroyed.


From the pledges to protect the environment for future generations, we see forests, rivers, oceans and natural habitats being destroyed. The pledges had all fallen short of realisation. Where is the money for these pledges gone?


Again, in less than one year, 100 world leaders signed an agreement in Scotland to halt deforestation by 2030. But let’s s refresh our minds, in 2014, in New York, more than 200 government, private sector and civil society organisations signed a declaration calling for a halving of deforestation rates by 2020, and a complete halt by 2030. Instead, deforestation remains rampant worldwide.


Meanwhile, global poverty is increasing — possibly due to misplaced priorities. The rising of food prices and living costs contribute to people falling into life-threatening poverty, or having to choose between extreme priorities. As if there weren't enough depressing reminders, previously eradicated diseases are making a comeback. Gold and diamond mining and smuggling practices have been well registered and analysed — full stop. Territorial invasions are being normalised. Radicalisation, both political and religious, is on the rise. People are being milked on several fronts, and the gaps are widening. Politicians, business groups, and lawmakers act like little gods — as if they are immune to explaining their actions to their societies. They bet on our short-term memory.


With so much going on almost simultaneously, those with a vested interest will keep the media as a public relations exercise. The educated ask questions, but don’t receive adequate responses. The wealthy pay for high quality information — paywall! Persuading younger people to pay for online news is a critical issue because they would rather consider saving for more essential things.


Then, it is not surprising that there are people who choose to be ignorant of what is happening in the world, they are the intentional news avoiders. Within the half empty or the half full approach, social media can fill their interest with parodies on TikTok and visual designs on Instagram. While people argue online about futilities other larger and more profitable interests are shielded from speculations and explanations. The result is a less informed and engaged society, a more polarised news environment and new trends on cultures of news consumption.


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