It's all about ME

Last week, Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times published an insightful column in which he linked the epidemic of newspaper deaths to a phenomenon known as "The Daily Me," in which each of us selects and reads only the news we want, and none of what we don't want.  (Read the column for yourself here.)  Kristof then dives deeper, citing studies that show the human tendency seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs and suggesting that this kind of self-imposed, isolationist protection of our opinions creates an increasingly segregated and polarized society.  He writes:

The decline of traditional news media will accelerate the rise of "The Daily Me," and we’ll be irritated less by what we read and find our wisdom confirmed more often. The danger is that this self-selected “news” acts as a narcotic, lulling us into a self-confident stupor through which we will perceive in blacks and whites a world that typically unfolds in grays.

 

I'm a first-class offender.  My iGoogle homepage shows me the top headlines from my favorite sections of my favorite papers; if I find myself constantly disagreeing with someone's twitter stream, I simply stop following them.  Certainly, no one is advocating that we stop reading news we agree with; we just need to be aware of and acknowledge our predilection for "news" that mirrors our opinions.  The column raises two questions for me though:

1. What is the role of social media?  Technology and instantaneous communication undoubtedly enable, and probably encourage, "The Daily Me," but blogs, Twitter and the like also allow us to meet new people and start new conversations.  Are we successfully tapping that potential for truly deep, multi-dimensional conversations or are we using social media like a personalized echo chamber?

2. As public relations professionals, we're all about telling stories and starting conversations.  How does "The Daily Me" change how we interact with both traditional media and social media?  How can we use contrary opinions to ultimately sharpen and strengthen the stories we tell? 

I haven't worked out an answer I'm satisfied with for either of these questions yet, which is why our thoughts are more than welcome -- especially if they're contentious...

- Contributed by Catharine Morgan.  Follow her @c_morgan.