Perspectives: Making the most of the coming new year

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION — With a new year just hours away, I’d like to make a few observations about some of the opportunities that await us over the next 365 days.

I have no psychic abilities and my prognostication skills are minimal, at best, but here are a few thoughts about what we might experience. First and foremost, the coming year will be a year of choices.

What we we do with them is up to each of us individually.

Each of us will begin the year with the same amount of time in each hour of each day. Two of the biggest challenges will be using our time and our influence wisely.

I’ve watched with great interest as, one by one, some of the best people I know are choosing to distance themselves from social media. There is no single reason for which they are doing this but two common themes are apparent.

The first is a realization that time spent on social media is time that could be spent more productively. We can all appreciate the benefits of being able to maintain close ties with family and friends no matter where they are at the moment.

The brightest moments of my week are when I have the chance to FaceTime my daughter and my little grandson. Staying in close touch has never been easier.

However, there’s also a powerful case to be made against getting caught up in sharing our more superficial moments rather than actually living life in the real world. When asked why they are choosing to limit their access to social media, many of my friends have alluded to having realized just how much screen time they were spending each day.

Two to three hours of screen time daily is not out of the question. Especially considering how easy it is to access our accounts every time we have a moment of downtime.

Even at family gatherings, you’re likely to see a clear trend of several relatives sitting together in the same room, yet every person is deeply focused on his or her smartphone screen rather each other. Did we really just travel many hours to see one another just so we could sit quietly surfing social media? It can become a distraction, if we let it.

The second theme I hear from those who are limiting their screen time is a growing concern over the intense online contention that has become the new normal. It’s not just a matter of disagreeing or arguing with people online.

It’s the sadistic pleasure that many seem to get from attacking and denouncing people they’ve never met.

We all know people who are genuinely decent and kind in person. Get them behind a keyboard and introduce a politically-loaded topic and they somehow transform into a vulgar, domineering caricature of themselves.

A perfect example of this can be seen in many of the comments on the St. George News Facebook page following a deadly shooting this past weekend. People who have no relation to the victim or the suspect are holding forth with thoughtless intensity that adds nothing but pain to the lives of those connected to the story.

It’s as if they feel a duty to score some perceived ideological victory that outweighs any consideration of the devastation felt by family members following a senseless death. We all may have a visceral reaction as we read certain news stories.

But why place a higher priority on publicly venting our spleens about an event rather than rallying around those who are actually suffering as a result of it? We may not be able to alleviate their pain but we can certainly avoid adding to it through self-serving criticism.

There will be plenty of political and cultural division to be found in the year ahead but that doesn’t mean that we are duty-bound to be a part of it.

Instead of succumbing to the temptation to become defined by who or what we are against, how much more productive might the new year be if we chose a different path?

Standing against something may give the appearance of righteousness but accomplishes nothing in the way that being a good person does. It’s a cheap counterfeit of the power of a good example in that it requires nothing from us except a declared opposition.

The folks who are serious about bringing light to their corner of the world must be willing to actually live as good and decent people. This means speaking the truth with love, losing the need to win and being willing to take the hits and denunciations of those who oppose them.

The battle of ideas is usually won by gentle persuasion rather than brute force logic or profane admonitions.

That’s worth remembering if any of our hopes for the coming year involve being a person whose influence changes things for the better.

Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events and liberty viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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4 Comments

  • Comment January 1, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    I have 1 last social media account that I’m winding my way off of. Another goal I’m considering is giving up all pornographic media, and this may include giving up netflix, since so many of the shows have become so obscene and pornographic.

    And yes, people seem to love using (anti)social media to attack people they see as “the other”, to bully people, and to generally just spread hatred and disagreement/discontent. It’s actually quite perverse.

    I’m going to link this video again: “the TRUE toxicity of social media revealed” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmXcjvL9VSc

    and I just noticed there’s actually a part 2 that was recently uploaded. I haven’t watched it yet.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m38W8glySGw

  • bikeandfish January 1, 2019 at 1:51 pm

    I think there is a fair and thoughtful message in this piece. I critiqued another user on the linked post in a way that wasn’t helpful given the context and the families involved. Timing (especially in use of certain written tones) matters as much as purpose and content.

    I wonder though if Hyde is willing to be as vulnerable for his own trespasses into the behavior he is thoughtfully critiquing here? His voice has changed in the last month or so and stands in stark contrast to the tone of some of his previous columns. I don’t think we just get to walk away from those contributions to modern polarization and hostility without some level of personal accountability. And I think that’s especially true for columnists and politocal pundits.

  • utahdiablo January 1, 2019 at 2:46 pm

    The entire World is already lost to the Devils tool

    • Redbud January 1, 2019 at 5:13 pm

      The devils tool is Nancy Pelosi, and you’re right anyone who looks to her for guidance or wisdom is definitely lost!

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