A Dwindling of Reliable Narrators
Swimming within the deep waters of our Information Age, what’s to stop one from drowning? The constant barrage of information dissemination is overwhelming. Can one craft enough dams to hold back the tidal waves?
Some information is wanted, right?! You can’t possibly cut off all information. What does one do for mindful assimilation practices? Our modern dilemma is that no one can sift through all the data on their own. There must be some outsourcing of information discernment to fully function in life. How do you funnel accurate, sensible information?
Do you feel like there are reliable narrators around you? What is a reliable narrator?Determining the characteristics of a reliable narrator may vary from person to person, but most individuals desire reliability and trustworthiness. I know I take into consideration if the person I’m listening to is a reliable and trustworthy. Is the person sensible at conveying information and telling stories?
There’s a level of both accuracy and consistency when it comes to someone being a reliable narrator. You must set the standard for the level of accuracy and consistency that feels compatible for you. A reliable narrator isn’t just about who has the “facts.” It’s about someone who is sensibly synthesizing the information that’s continually entering our information ecology.
Last year I was decidedly low-key with my daily living. With so much going on in the world, both locally and abroad, my instinct was to contract and remain contained. There were increasingly more confused and overwhelmed individuals around me. Similarly, I noticed others responding by engaging in more low-key, restrictive lifestyles. Whilst a good response for one’s nervous system, this behavior change disrupts social interactions and the flow of acquiring and discerning information.
Celebrations of holidays and special occasions were quieter and calmer. It was clear to me that my own nervous system needed a break. In previous years, I’d consider goals and accomplishments, like amping up my fitness or embarking on some career transitions. Last year those goals didn’t seem as important. One goal rose above all others; I wanted to be a reliable narrator.
It’s been my perception that so much of the strife people have been experiencing is due to lack of cohesive, sensical information. Whether that be from misinformation or disinformation, or a result of accurate information possibly stated with bias or in the form of too much information. Each aspect contributing to ascertaining a true sense of reliability from one’s information sources. I wanted to buck the currents of any unreliable narrators that swam in the sea of the information ecology.
I wanted to add to my existing list of healthy habits. I took an online course about sensemaking. I watched long-form podcasts with nuanced conversations about world events. I spent less time on social media. I joined online book clubs and specified online communities. I walked miles every day around my immediate surroundings. I was observably alert and sought to see anything new around me. I’d go to bed each night with gratitude and wake up each day with the intention to contribute to harmony in my interactions.
In fictional stories, writers can use the stroytelling device of having an unreliable narrator. This device creates tension, suspense or mystery. There’s an eventual reveal that the narrator’s credibility is compromised. This often makes the story more intriguing, more dramatic. Such a reveal provokes you to question what you were believing. Awareness of unreliable narrators sparks a spate of uncertainty.
For entertainment purposes, you can see the appeal of an unreliable narrator. What about for real life concerns and news updates? It doesn’t sound so appealing. When it comes to real life concerns, individuals often have a negative resonance to uncertainty.
The world of media is very much about storytelling. With much of the population having 24/7 media access, society consumes these stories more than ever. Should our media space be void of unreliable narrators?
Having an unreliable narrator plays out differently within news media. It’s no longer a literary device; it has real life consequences. When these stories are influencing your levels of stress and well-being, you must take them into deeper consideration. What does one do when their go-to narrator on a subject is found to be unreliable? Does this information source get discarded when their inaccuracies or mistakes are revealed?
Not necessarily. There are a multitude of reasons why members of society continue to stay aligned with a source that continually signals unreliability. This is the downside of a web or net, or what is referred as our media matrix. While your granted access to positive contributions, it becomes inextricable to disconnect from something negative within the web. If you’re not provided another viable option to upgrade to a more reliable source, you remain attached to the media source that continues to broadcast regardless of your determined reliability evaluation.
A key sign of an unreliable narrator is If the narrator has a clear agenda about or bias against someone or something. If you or I were repeatedly unreliable, we’d likely be discarded. Perhaps, rightfully so. If a media source is repeatedly unreliable, does it get treated as you or I would? Think about this, how many times does an individual or an institution get a “free pass” because they appear to have some esteem or status within a power dynamic imposed by society.
It’s important to mention that not every unreliable narrator is immoral or malevolent. Being an unreliable narrator doesn’t automatically signify ill-intent. Taking not of unreliability can simply be criteria of whether or not you want to bring that person’s information into your sensemaking process. An unreliable narrator could be misinformed, misguided or unknowingly biased, so there doesn’t necessarily mean there’s ill-intent. Still, you’d like to be weary of informational sources that are misguided or misinformed.
In times of great uncertainly, writers and storytellers are extremely valuable. There’s an accountability to take on the craft of sharing cohesive stories. Influential institutions and those in positions of power must strive to have a reliable narrator. No matter what the medium, you can zoom out to identify this context. You decide; does this matter to you for someone to withhold this value? If revealed, can you accept that there are unreliable narrators disseminating information without accountability. This can be a bitter pill to swallow, but this is happening.
As a writer and someone who shares online daily, I set an intention to maintain consistency in being a reliable narrator. The responsibility that comes with this intention is for me to actively, deliberately hone my sensemaking skills on a regular basis. To question all sources of information, even ones that have proven reliable. It takes effort to do this, but the benefits are worth it. Fortunately, there are other individuals who value this accountability.