By Justin Dahlheimer, First National Bank president

The increasing flow of digital information through our phones, TVs, and tablets is noise. It is distracting. We get emotional about it, make decisions based on those emotions, and they tend to be bad decisions based on the values we have. There is a time to consume what is out there, but we need to make less time for that, and we need to prioritize what information we consume, looking locally first, nationally and internationally last.

Even more deafening is the noise that comes from digital gossip. There are too many examples to list of situations where information spreads digitally based on speculation alone. Complicating it even further, many of these digital channels (Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram, etc) have developed advanced algorithms that subliminally slant the information you see. It is more important than ever to scrutinize the source of information and to actively support the good sources of information that do exist.

Due to the ease that information flows, our local community has to not only fight division from within, but also divisive forces acting on it from the outside. I can point to past examples where events in our own community were misinterpreted on social media and created a reverberation so strong and distracting that it created resentment, and ultimately harmed the reputation of the community we love to call home. Online news sources are incentivized to push controversial issues that generate more website traffic, which increases their ad revenue. Unfortunately, often, the news that goes viral out of small communities is an exaggeration with a lack of context that would require more thoughtful journalism. Therefore, we must get to know the people and institutions around us so we can build the trust needed to know that what we are reading might not be the whole perspective.

The danger is in the division that is created, the forums for that division to remain, and the hindrance it puts on our local institutions that need cooperation among people of all political backgrounds. When our only view of our peers is what we see them post online, I worry about our ability to drown out that noise and see our fellow community members for the common values that brought them into the same community we both care about. Those common values are what forges the compromises that keep our community relevant, invest in our local resources, and build towards shared success.

Tips to limit the noise:

  • Embrace your sources of local news. I look forward to our School Newsletter and our Local Newspaper. Support them; help them bring us accurate information. It is ironic that Facebook has been complaining that there are not enough local news sources, when our time we have spent on their app has led to the downfall of great local journalism. We need to take action to change that trend.

  • Turn off your notifications on your smartphones. Don’t be at its beck and call. Instead, schedule your time to be in that space. Make that time short.

  • Attend community meetings and community events. There are plenty. They are free. We keep an ongoing list of them at www.fnbosakis.com and you can build real, meaningful relationships. Bring kids to them so we can teach their importance to our future generations.

  • Promote positive stories. If you are not seeing enough positive news online, start looking for it and promoting it. Fill up our social media feeds with all the good things that are going on around us!

• • •

Osakis Voices is a rotating column written by community leaders who share their thoughts in their field of expertise.