thumb scrolling on mobile phone newsfeed

What do you click on in the endless feed?

Blink and you miss it. That is the nature of the modern newsfeed designed not for information but for commercial clicks. What can you do when the real issues slip quickly under your thumbs?

Today’s news feeds are prolific.

They have endless clickable content to keep us scrolling knowing that we are going to scan headlines and only occasionally click through to maybe five or six hundred words written by an AI bot and peppered with ads. 

Newsfeeds are also heavy on crisis content. Catastrophes that we have to know about even when any impact is far away often in a distant land.

Only the article that laments loss or imminent disaster slips down the feed and is lost within 24 hours. 

Some of the more sticky crises appear again over the next few days later by different authors. But the essence of it is that scroll past and the crisis goes away. No need to worry or pay attention, it’s just part of the endless feed. 

Only the bad news and the ‘skies are falling in’ crises have emotional and psychological effects on us all. As we see these crises hide under our thumbs, something in us must recognise that we should be stopping and doing something about them. 

Instead, the problems slip by on the feed with the same significance as another complaint from the former Ms Markle. 

At some point though actions will matter. Our own personal well-being, as well as the well-being of current and future generations, will depend on today’s generation doing something about climate, biodiversity loss, food insecurity, pandemic responses, financial inequality…  the list is long and there is no silver bullet.

Scrolling past the issues

So what to do about this instant dismissal of issues that have a real and present impact and will be a huge burden to future generations if no actions are taken. 

It’s about tapping into emotions through the usual array of techniques to make people feel strongly about it including the ‘bleeds it leads’ emotional tugs we are familiar with already. 

Alongside the emotional triggers, energy must go into the setting of audacious goals. The idea that we can move towards something better. Even if we don’t achieve Nirvana, we can at least push towards it, rather than focusing on the disasters that occur. 

Why can’t we imagine a much better situation? A kind of ideal where everyone is well fed and watered, the environment retains its integrity, and systems of production and supply chains and food security no longer flash through the feeds. 

A focus on feel-good and emotional well-being is fine and necessary but it must go alongside a different kind of vibe. The audaciousness needed to reduce risk and leave a truly improved place for future generations. And the emotional energy gained from knowing that we contributed to the lives of our great-grandchildren. Giving them an opportunity rather than a legacy of difficulties. 

So you’re obviously going to ask what are these audacious goals that we could set. Well, we have them already. 

Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs are a pretty good place to start. They talk a lot about raising the well-being and lifestyle of the two and a half billion people who live on less than $10 a day. 

There are 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) selected to “transform our world”:

GOAL 1: No Poverty

GOAL 2: Zero Hunger

GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being

GOAL 4: Quality Education

GOAL 5: Gender Equality

GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality

GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

GOAL 13: Climate Action

GOAL 14: Life Below Water

GOAL 15: Life on Land

GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions

GOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal

Audacity makes sense

Audacious goals like the SDGs have been in place for some time. They set a light on the hill and underneath them are any number of different methods, techniques and programs to achieve practical outcomes. Activities that will move a group of people or a region or a country towards achieving the goals. 

Obviously, here at sustainably FED, we are interested in the food production, ecology and diet goals and the related sustainability and societal issues we believe are foundational. 

Failure to fix these three SDGs and there won’t be any future well-being worth putting into a newsfeed.

Sticky newsfeeds

Everywhere there are opportunities for audacious goals that are not really designed to ever be achieved, they’re designed to shift mindsets, they’re big enough and brazen enough to change the way everyone thinks about the problem. 

The problem at the moment is being presented as a disaster. Crisis after crisis in each of our feeds, we feel the world is falling in on itself. And with the best will in the world that’s extremely difficult to stay positive under such a barrage. 

What we need is what the world should look like instead of the crisis. Then describe audacious goals and from that solutions will emerge. The mindset will be of finding an answer rather than curling up in a ball and demolishing half a bottle of scotch. 

Throughout the sustainably FED website, we talk about solutions a lot interspersed with foundational material on the challenges. 

What we hope is that some of these goals and ideas can be more sticky on the feeds. More like good news stories and grab some more attention on the back of the fact that they’re doing good rather than yet another scream for help.

Hero image modified from photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

Mark

Mark is an ecology nerd who was cursed with an entrepreneurial gene and a big picture view making him a rare beast, uncomfortable in the ivory towers and the disconnected silos of the public service. Despite this he has made it through a 40+ year career as a scientist and for some unknown reason still likes to read scientific papers.

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