One of the major buzz phrases that’s used both in the new media movement is the idea of “shining a light on” something. Glenn Beck uses this one a lot – shine a light on corruption, on fraud, scandal, abuse, etc. and people will see it for what it truly is and, more often than not (when the thing deserves to be cast out into the blazing light of backlit computer screens everywhere) the American people do the rest.
It gets addressed.
Conversely, in both politics, society, and our very souls, that which is left in the dark festers.
But it’s not just the bad stuff that deserves to be illuminated. There are a lot of good people out there in the big bad world that are actively striving with big and epic Paul Bunyan steps to make the world a brighter, better place. Many of those people don’t get the visibility they deserve – not for their own fame or recognition because that’s not what matters – but to spread their ideas and help promote a better, alternate narrative to the junk that the mainstream is wheezing out.
Because I’m nostalgic and like looking at pretty things like Edison bulbs, vintage hat advertisements, and tins of Prince Albert in a Can, I like to think of “shining a light on something” as “hanging a lantern.”
When you shine a light on something, using the vast power of the socialmediaverse, eventually that light directs itself elsewhere and the issue is pushed to the back of people’s minds. But hanging a lantern is different. When talented content producers, bloggers, activists, etc. are consistent, I keep following them and show them to other people. When they continue to produce stellar content and ideas, I continue to watch and listen. The lantern follows talented individuals regardless of the headline whims.
Now why, the hypothetical reader I imagined may be asking, does it matter to spotlight someone who is doing something good? Shouldn’t we be focusing on the bad things people are doing in the world, repeatedly making the hashtags trend and bringing them to the public attention so that justice is done? Why waste time talking about things that don’t need fixing?
To answer that, I’d like to tell you a short tale of two cities.
Yes, I realize that’s a picture of a desert. Yes, that’s in Oregon.
The first city is Portland: urban center, full of indie musicians, indie beer, indie coffee shops with no signs, and, of course, a vast, socially-liberal attitude.
The second is the city of Prineville. Prineville is in Central Oregon, but it has the same heart and spirit as Eastern Oregon. It’s generally far more conservative, more about personal responsibility, hard work, family values, and faith in God than the other half of the state.
There’s a large culture gap between East and West in Oregon, and it affects the way that Oregon conservatives approach the two areas. The Portlanders receive scorn, mockery, and dogged debate. Conservatives generally wish that Portland didn’t exist. Not shockingly, the liberal population is sick and tired of conservatives constantly ragging on them, and has learned to tune it out.
Meanwhile, what of Prineville and the rest of Eastern Oregon? The places that, by and large, are conservative and only separated by mountains, roughlands, and a long stretch of highway. These places get neglected. No one really thinks about them – it’s a given that they’ll vote Republican in the next election, it’s a given that they’ll always be conservative, and it’s a given that they’ll do what they’re supposed to.
Eastern Oregon is sick and tired of it. Some are angry. Some have sworn off the Republican party. Some have stopped voting altogether.
So, to answer the question of “why focus on the positive when there’s so much negative to uncover…?”
Because people like positivity. People don’t like being ragged on 24/7 and people don’t like being ignored and taken for granted. The messaging coming out of Oregon conservative groups has been all negative, and nobody’s having it.
We need a viable alternative to the junk. We need content that not only promotes a positive message that we can stand by, but also is really cool and draws people in on the coolness before it introduces them to the idea. It has to be high quality. It has to be innovative. It has to make me jump out of my seat and say “hot damn, that was epic.”
And to get to that place, we have to build up the people who want to do that. It’s not about giving somebody fame – it’s about giving them opportunity.
This is 8-bit simple. Hang a lantern.