Internal vs. External Narratives ~ How do they impact our lives?


intention

While we recognize the limitations of any singular blog post’s ability to answer big questions like the ones we’re asking, our intention is not to tell you everything there is to know about this issue, but rather to open up a space for conversation, reflection, curiosity, and a consideration of all the other questions this one question sets in motion.

question

How do we publicize our internal narratives when we are online?


reflection

by: Bridget Haina

Do you hear that? That voice? That voice inside your head? That internal narrative we can have, guiding our every decision each and every day. This internal narrative that is so personal, so sacred to us is not inherently created from within. This story we tell ourselves is created and influenced by all the external narratives that we consume, from our lived experiences to those others share with us. It comes from the books we read, the shows we watch, the music we listen to. It is morphing constantly as we take in more information. And although it will always morph, that doesn’t mean that it is always changing. 

Many of the internal narratives we hold become reinforced as we add to our life experience, solidifying our points of view into “beliefs” and “facts” about ourselves, others and the world, making it harder for contradictory information to penetrate into our thought spaces. Other pieces of our narrative may be more fluid and change easily as we gain a deeper understanding of the world around us.

Humans have been struggling with this dynamic between internal and external narratives since the first story was uttered. How do we externalize our own internal narrative? How do we share it with others? What do we share and why? All questions we each grapple with throughout our lives. 

If that wasn’t complicated enough, now add in the ability to not only share your story with those physically around you, but to share it to the whole world. We have each been given access to worldwide publishing through spaces like Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia. With just a quick post all of my hopes, frustrations, dreams and understandings of life can be sent and shared instantly with other people all over the globe. 

What a magnificent power, the ability to communicate across space and time ~ to capture and immortalize the stories of billions. With this immense power comes a responsibility to instill media literacy and digital citizenship in anyone who wishes to use their story and their beliefs to impact others, public discourse and democracy. 

How will history be told now that the moments of our lives and the thoughts that pass through our minds are so easily recorded and made permanent? How will it impact how we pass our narratives and stories down through generations? So often we can get caught up in the excitement of this power without fully understanding its impact. There is a social consequence to how others are impacted by the information we share, but there is also an internal impact on our own perception of self. What happens when we start externalizing things that were once internalized? What happens when we throw ourselves onstage at younger and younger ages? 

The data is out there to attest to how these devices and platforms are changing us physiologically and psychologically; changes we have yet to fully understand as we stand at the beginning of this Digital Information Revolution.

Take pause today and reflect on how you share your internal narrative online. How has that impacted your perception of self? How has it impacted the perception others have of you? How has it impacted how you perceive others? How has it impacted your life as a whole?


actions to take

Reflect upon your own internal narrative. Where does it come from? What does it impact?

Think about the external influences that help shape your perception. Challenge their influence.

Have a conversation with someone about how they make decisions and work through different situations. Learn their thought process.


questions to consider

How do you share your narrative with others?
How has that impacted your perception of self? How has it impacted the perception others have of you? How has it impacted how you perceive others? How has it impacted your life as a whole?

Who benefits from the narratives you believe?

Who is the audience for your story?


resources
EXPLORE

Using Your Internal Monologue in Writing

Self-concept, self-esteem, gender, race and information technology use

The Future of Well-Being in a Tech-Saturated World

WATCH
LISTEN

Inner Monologues with Ethan Kross, Ph‪D‬

Media Narratives

self reflection exercise:

How are you impacted by media narratives?

What is a Narrative? How do you engage with narratives every day?

Narratives are the stories we see, hear, and tell about the world, ourselves, and our place within it. They can be fact, fiction, or a combination that muddles reality. They compellingly invite us to engage and believe. They can be inspiring, and they can be alienating. They can be unifying, and they can be polarizing. They hold our history, our triumphs, and our pain. 

They are also prolific: everywhere, all the time. We are enveloped by narratives each day. Narratives combined with our life experiences and expectations are what give us our unique perspective and shape how we move through the world. We will always find ways to justify our differing perspectives, to others and to ourselves, even when we know they may be wrong. We hold onto these ideas and stories because they take hold of our imagination and give meaning to our lives. In this digital age, it is even easier to get caught in a singular perspective, to not challenge the narratives shaping who we are and how we see the world, and to find all of the justifications for our convictions just a swipe away.

In honor of Black History Month, and the dire need to challenge many of the narratives that hold our collective consciousness from progress, this month we want to engage you with questions, resources, and an extended conversation around narratives.

Reflect with us and ask yourself:

What is a narrative? 
How do I engage with narratives?
How do I create them internally for ourselves and externally for others?
How are narratives created?
Who benefits from their creation and belief?
How do online information systems and the construction of information through them impact my understanding of myself and the world I live in?
How am I impacted by both current and historical narratives?
How can narratives be weaponized?

Reflect on a narrative you once believed but no longer do.

Why and how did you change your views?

How did you perpetuate the old narrative?

How are you perpetuating the new narrative?

Understanding that we don’t always control the narratives we consume and live within can make it easier to challenge and question those put before us. Developing an agile, critical mindset that allows us to change our stance on an issue when new information arises that challenges our deeply held narratives will make it easier to let go of them.

Whether you choose to write your response here or…

Converse with another human

go for a walk

talk to your dog

put it on paper

consider it quietly

draw it out

write a song

put motion to your thoughts

drink some whiskey with a friend.

Take one step towards becoming more aware of the digital forces impacting your life.

Education, Democracy, and the Media in the United States.


intention

While we recognize the limitations of any singular blog post’s ability to answer big questions like the ones we’re asking, our intention is not to tell you everything there is to know about this issue, but rather to open up a space for conversation, reflection, curiosity, and a consideration of all the other questions this one question sets in motion.

question

How Did We Get Here?


reflection

by: Katherine Baxter, PhD

When I taught 3rd grade in Denver, Colorado, on my drive to work I would often see sleeping bags lining the streets, in shapes that made it hard to determine if there was a human form somewhere lost inside. Each day as I was stopped at a red light looking into these shapes, the sky just beginning to glow with morning light, I would think of the future of the kids in my class: the world they have inherited, the social and civic moment they are living through, and the reality that for my students and for millions of children across this country, education is failing to prepare them to inherit this democracy and to navigate the uncertain future that lies ahead.

In the aftermath of the January 6th storming of the United States Capitol, there seems to be a lingering shock and disbelief hanging in the air that such an event could happen here, in what some say is one of the strongest democracies in the world. What has most surprised me, however, is how few are drawing the connections among the civic crisis we are living through, the toxicity of our media landscape, and the decline in the democratic values underpinning our public education institutions over the last four decades.  

“The neglect of the relationship between education and democracy is in my view our greatest contemporary failure, and it has led us precisely and inevitably to this moment of profound civic crisis.”

– Dr.Katherine Baxter

The idea of democracy, going all the way back to the debates of Plato and Socrates, has always relied upon an educated and informed populace, brought to life by discerning voters capable of telling the difference between truth and dogma, fact and fiction, demagogues and decent politicians. In the United States, we have a rich history and tradition of valuing and protecting this relationship. Thinkers like Horace Mann in the mid-late 1800s and John Dewey in the early 1900s, catalyzed the public education movement in this country, the intention of which was to harness large-scale education as a democratic mechanism. They envisioned a system that would give people such possession of themselves and their minds that they would be capable of living in a way that would uphold and strengthen democratic values – values like critical thinking, dialogue, truth, participation, and justice – and that would empower citizens as active agents capable of shaping their government, their society, and their world, rather than passive, easily swayed and confused bystanders unable to defend their individual and collective interests.

While this was the original intention animating public education in the United States, I would argue we’ve fallen very far from this ideal over the last four decades, and this hasn’t been incidental. It has been the direct result of both state and federal policy changes in education that have embraced values of standardization, linearity, obedience, and economic utility over those more lofty and intangible values that safeguard democracy. And in parallel to this shift in values, we have also seen a substantial increase in government funding to private and charter schools, fueling competition among institutions that should be working towards a common purpose, and skewing the educational landscape in such a way that it no longer ensures access to high quality education for all, setting the stage for the incredible inequality we see in our society today.

This decline was already in progress before we entered into what is being described as ‘the digital age’. If you combine this decline in our public and civic education system with the solidification of an online informational ecosystem inarguably designed to distort, outrage, polarize, and spread misinformation, it creates a very difficult environment for people to be able to make sense of what is going on; to detect logical contradictions, blatant falsehoods, dogmatic reasoning, and corruption; to figure out where and how they fit into this country and who to blame for the difficulties in their lives – all of which ultimately obstructs citizens’ ability to act as competent and informed voters capable of fulfilling their democratic responsibilities.

It is hard to argue with the reality that many people in this country are suffering, and many are deeply confused and misguided about why – the combination of which can easily manifest as hate. I’ve heard a lot of people identify the events of January 6th as at base a manifestation of the currents of white supremacy that flow through America’s veins, which is certainly a reality and almost definitely played a role in the events of January 6th. However, I would argue that if you look even deeper beneath that explanation you will find that this is at base a manifestation of deep individual and collective suffering; of unchecked conspiratorial thinking, ignorance, and profoundly incoherent narratives; and of our inability as a society to equip each citizen, in every part of this country – rural, urban, poor, rich, black, white or otherwise – with the cognitive defenses required to be able to reason through this uniquely confusing and difficult period of history, and find our place within it.

There is no way, short of violating free speech, to ensure that bad and dangerous ideas won’t be thought, discussed, and circulated throughout our society, particularly given the way that social media amplifies outrage and misinformation while allowing for anonymity. This is going to be a fact of life in the digital age until we get serious about implementing the systematic regulation of online platforms. The only way we can truly protect ourselves, our society, and our civic institutions from being held captive by falsehoods, dogma, and delusion is to build our internal cognitive defenses in such a way that each individual is capable of filtering out lies from truth, and of reasoning through propositions in such a way that logic will prevail as the only natural conclusion. The only means by which we can achieve this is education, and more specifically media literacy education.

Last week I watched the second round of impeachment proceedings being brought by the House of Representatives against Donald Trump. As the votes trickled in, following neat and seemingly inviolable party lines, I began to worry that there is no event, action, or threat to our democracy capable of sufficiently shaking those politicians held hostage by ideological conformity and egocentrism to cross this imaginary party line, and I wondered about the millions of citizens that voted these people into office. The neglect of the relationship between education and democracy is in my view our greatest contemporary failure, and it has led us precisely and inevitably to this moment of profound civic crisis. Trump has been a stress test for our democracy, and if we expect it to hold as we move forward into the Biden Administration and into what will surely be a challenging and uncertain future in the United States, we need to learn this vital lesson. 


actions to take

Reflect upon your own education and/or the education of your children. Challenge yourself to fill in any gaps in your knowledge of civics, social studies, sociology, and government. 

Think about what you can do to ensure that the schools in your community prioritize media literacy, critical thinking, and civics in their curriculum choices. Contact your local school board to make sure your voice is heard.

Take pride in being an informed and intelligent citizen capable of holding your elected officials accountable. Encourage those around you to do the same. 

Don’t let falsehoods, misinformation, or conspiracy theories be spoken without challenge. Use your voice in pursuit of the truth.

Reflect on how your community has neglected the relationship between education and democracy.


questions to consider

Who benefits from a society filled with citizens who don’t know their rights, don’t understand how their government operates, and aren’t encouraged to think deeply and critically about the society in which they live?

Think about how the idea of “divide and conquer” is playing out in the ways in which narratives are weaponized and mis/disinformation and outrage are perpetuated online. Who benefits from this?


resources
EXPLORE

News Literacy Project

Checkology: Checkology’s lessons and other resources show you how to navigate today’s challenging information landscape.

WATCH
LISTEN

Use Your Voice


intention

While we recognize the limitations of any singular blog post’s ability to answer big questions like the ones we’re asking, our intention is not to tell you everything there is to know about this issue, but rather to open up a space for conversation, reflection, curiosity, and a consideration of all the other questions this one question sets in motion.

question

Should you write to your State Representatives?


reflection

by: Bridget Haina

When we start to consider our role in democracy outside of voting, the actions we need to take can become less clear, less quantifiable. I know I have heard my whole life that if I feel a certain way about an issue I should write to my Elected Representatives, that a letter from a constituent is worth 10 lobbyists. But when I look at the trend in policy towards corporate interests it becomes harder to believe that that action, or my voice, could make a difference. 

My grandfather, Carl Streeter, inspired a different perspective in me. Out of all the people in my life, he is the only one I know that regularly writes to his representatives. His pen is relentless in the fight for accountability and fairness, and when he was younger, his presence at every public forum was one to be remembered. Every letter and speech held a dedication to the search for truth and a demand for the answers to difficult questions. 

I can’t help but wonder if I was more like him if I knew more people like him, people who not only cared about but took action to ensure a fair democracy, what kind of democracy would we have?

We will leave you with this question and the actions below to ponder.


actions to take

Find your Senators. Who are they? What do they stand for?

Write your Senators to express your views on the upcoming impeachment vote

View a Sample Letter You Can Use to Start or Scroll to Copy & Paste

Explore Outreach Resources.


questions to consider

In what ways do you feel impacted by the actions at the Capitol on January 6?

How are you civically engaging outside of voting?

What barriers do you face when trying to engage with our democracy?


resources
EXPLORE

APA Guide to Writing to Your Representative

Who to Contact?

Check out After We Vote to learn what you can do to Demand Justice and Protect Democracy Now

READ

Trump Impeachment Efforts Live

Writing to Your Elected Representatives

WATCH
LISTEN
Sample Email to Representative

EMAIL SUBJECT: Demand to Impeach. Time for action.

Dear Senator/Representative [LAST NAME]:

As a constituent, I urge you to find the courage to insist that Donald Trump be held accountable for the damage he has done to our democracy through impeachment and conviction. He must no longer, and never again, be President of the United States.

[Insert 2-3 sentences about how the actions of Donal Trump have impacted your life specifically.]

The depth of Mr. Trump’s corruption demands immediate action. From calling on a hostile foreign government to obtain and leak a rival candidate’s correspondence, to flouting the constitutional Emoluments Clause that bars public officials from being compensated in any way by foreign states, to boasting about actions that qualify as sexual assault (in terms that corroborate a string of allegations against him), Mr. Trump has violated countless standards of public integrity and personal decency. He is dangerously unfit to hold the presidency.

Article Four, Section 2 of the Constitution specifies “high crimes and misdemeanors” as grounds for impeachment. It is not restricted to offenses committed while in office, nor does it require criminal conviction. Mr. Trump’s offenses already meet this standard and will continue to do so through to the end of presidency. The Congress must act in the country’s best interests by impeaching him and removing him from office.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

[NAME/TITLE/INSTITUTION]

Official Podcast Launch!!!


Introducing Conversations with Canaries:
An American Canary Podcast

by: Lindsay Newman

If American Canary Co-founders Katie and Bird had met in person, they would have closed down any local watering hole; seated at a corner table, deep in conversation about the complexity of human nature, the tenets of quality education, and the foundations of a democratic society. Instead, I introduced them via Zoom, on the assumption that their boundless curiosity and deep seeded passion would be mutually beneficial for the impact of American Canary. This timely collaboration resulted in an effortless fusion of intellect, creativity, and community. Our weekly check-ins, group text messages, and ad-hoc conversations became so enlightening, so intriguing and perceptive, I felt like I shouldn’t be the only one listening in. We also wanted to expand how we could share out with others, beyond the written word, while also exploring how we as individuals can harness conversation as a corrective social mechanism – arguably the best tool we have to work through the problems we face as a society.

So we made a podcast! With the hopes of creating an opportunity to invite you in, to listen to the conversation that we have with each other and so often in our own heads, and to be a would-be fly on the corner-table wall. I hope that you come away from this experience/experiment as stirred, inspired, and perhaps even puzzled, as I so often do. Enjoy.


episode 1

Education, Media Literacy, and Democracy

Where Do We Fit In?


This is the first episode in our Conversations with Canaries podcast series. Join American Canary Co-founders and educators Professor Bridget Haina and Dr. Katherine Baxter in a conversation about the relationships among education, democracy, and media literacy in the United States, moderated by our third Co-founder, Lindsay Newman. 

Future episodes will continue exploring similar issues from different angles, bringing a variety of voices to bear on these important issues that will shape our world for decades to come. Listen, learn, and please join the conversation.

Intro Composition & Engineering by – John Lindsay https://makingrecords.me/


actions to take

Reflect how education, media literacy and democracy impact your life.

Choose one (or more) of these topics and start a conversation with someone on or off-line.


questions to consider

What has your media and technology education been like?

Do you feel as literate as you could be?

How civically engaged are you outside of election time?

How empowered are you to participate within democracy to create change in your own life?


resources
READ

Building Citizenship Skills through Media Literacy Education

Check out our Reflection Page to learn more about Media Literacy & Democracy

Critical Consumption

self reflection exercise:

How critical are you of the influence media has on your everyday experience?

One of the main components of becoming a media literate digital citizen is understanding and reflecting upon how we use the media in our daily lives and, in turn, how the media is impacting us on a daily basis.

Using a critical and intraspective lens to examine the impact media is having on us each day — on our emotional well-being, on what we come to view as true or false, on how we view our role in society and our responsibilities towards others — is all part of the process of not letting ourselves get swept away by the currents of media we are swimming in each day.

Bringing this critical lens with you as you navigate your personal media landscape each day is just as important as being conscious of the fact that you are being influenced by it.

To better understand which media you should engage with, which media you should avoid, and how to develop healthy media habits, ask yourself the following questions:

What media makes me happy/productive/thoughtful? What makes me sad/angry/distracted?

What are the boundaries you could put in place to increase positive engagement and decrease negative reactivity? 

How can you build simple routines and habits into your day that help you use media in the way you intend to?


As you go about your day, try to take a moment and reflect.

Whether you choose to write your response here or…

Converse with another human

go for a walk

talk to your dog

put it on paper

consider it quietly

draw it out

write a song

put motion to your thoughts

drink some whiskey with a friend.

Take one step towards becoming more aware of the digital forces impacting your life.

Conscious Consumption

self reflection exercise:

How conscious are you of the influence media has on your everyday experience?

One of the main components to becoming a media literate digital citizen is understanding and reflecting on our own use of the media and how it impacts our life.

Reflecting upon our own emotional experience as we consume, use, and create media will help us to better understand our own engagement. What use creates joy or wellness? What use creates despair or frustration? What are the boundaries I need to set for myself?

Being conscious of and understanding the emotions that take over as we navigate our own media landscapes takes us one step closer to becoming media literate digital citizens. So please, take a moment and reflect.

Whether you choose to write your response here or…

Converse with another human

go for a walk

talk to your dog

put it on paper

consider it quietly

draw it out

write a song

put motion to your thoughts

drink some whiskey with a friend.

Take one step towards becoming more aware of the digital forces impacting your life.

Emotions & the Language of Understanding


intention

While we recognize the limitations of any singular blog post’s ability to answer big questions like the ones we’re asking, our intention is not to tell you everything there is to know about this issue, but rather to open up a space for conversation, reflection, curiosity, and a consideration of all the other questions this one question sets in motion.

question

How do you work through your emotional reactions to media?


reflection

by: Lindsay Newman

Taped to my window is a brightly colored, eight-part chart entitled “Emotion Cards” that was provided to me by the outstanding organization Building Bridges. It includes the typical emotions one might think of when they are asked the seemingly simple question, “How are you feeling?”. The headlines are happy/sad/angry/bad etc., but then it drops down to more specific reactions. Under “anxious” are the terms scared, insecure, defensive, and fearful; below those come even more specific language: helpless, inadequate, excluded, exposed. 

I find myself glancing at this chart regularly, my fingers tracing the page, trying to find language for the sensations that arise in my body as I experience a daily barrage of emotional turmoil. I pause the radio following a major headline to review each word choice provided under the broad term angry. I turn off my video during a Zoom call to examine the language surrounding distracted, consciously making an effort to let the emotion wash over my body without judgment, knowing that, for me, this is still a difficult challenge.

This particular moment in history has dredged up so much emotion in our country: Overwhelming loss, ineffective guilt, emboldened vulnerability, and so many more. Taking the time individually to better understand our emotions, how they show up, and to name them in whatever way makes sense is a powerful and necessary means of personal and communal growth. Being able to effectively recognize emotions that bubble to the surface while engaging with media is also an elemental aspect of practicing media literacy.

Often in the United States, we are encouraged to ‘control’ our emotions, to ‘bury’ them, or ‘pull ourselves together’ so we are not ‘overcome’. Yet each of these repressive colloquialisms are indicative of the reality that our emotions live in our bodies, they affect all five of our senses, and they show up in a full spectrum of unique ways. Being curious as to where and why you feel excited or motivated, or taking the time to ask yourself what pride tastes like, or what color signals shame, allows you the space to locate and identify your emotions, and to understand how they are implicitly and explicitly impacting the ‘you’ that shows up in each moment of your life.

We are in the midst of a myriad of holidays, which often entails time spent in the company of, and in conversation with, family, friends and loved ones. How we feel about certain things may not be shared by those who share our DNA. This time of year can be challenging to separate out our emotions and even more challenging to understand how to share our feelings in a way that is accepted or acknowledged. To add to this challenge, many people will be interacting through screens, which can muddle interpretation and context. Those emotions that are so palpable face to face can quickly feel dismissive or hostile.

During the election, I felt like I was trying to untie a massive frozen knot, in the dead of winter, without gloves. I didn’t have the right words to describe all the emotions that were layered in my body. I chose to create a mental image to help me find some tangibility to my feelings. Another friend described her state of being as trying to put soaked and disintegrating puzzle pieces together on a slanted table. Her description helped me better understand her emotional state and made it easier not to judge or try too hard to relate her experience to my own, when that was unnecessary.

This holiday season, we encourage you to uncover your feelings through whatever means makes the most sense to you. Share them with people you trust and in a way that doesn’t project your emotions onto others. The concept of sharing emotions and feelings is not universal, although I wish it was. There is so much we have yet to learn from our emotions, and so much beauty in the difficult process of coming to understand how we feel, why we feel the way we do, how to relate our feelings to those of others through language, and how to accept and reconcile our inability to do so. This is ongoing work. Emotions can change instantly, or they can settle in the crevasses of our engrained selves for extended amounts of time. Please make an effort to stay curious, stay open, and this holiday season, consider being reflective as opposed to reactive. 

P.S. Writing this scares me. I feel it in my throat, and I have to remind myself to relax my shoulders, because they are encroaching on my ear space.


actions to take

Begin a meditation or mindfulness routine.

Choose from a wide range of apps (Headspace or Waking Up would be our recommendations) that can help you build this skill into your day. Just as you need to exercise your body to maintain your physical health, so too do you need to exercise your mind to maintain your mental and cognitive health. 

Watch your emotions bubble to surface. Accept them. Watch them pass, knowing that everything is impermanent; no feeling will last forever.


questions to consider

What emotions does consuming media evoke within you?

What emotions does using technology evoke within you?

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed by your emotions? Do you feel you are able to effectively cope with difficult or unpleasant feelings?

Do you make space for the emotions of others in your life? Loved ones? Colleagues? 

Could you be more empathetic to the people you encounter everyday?


resources
EXPLORE

Mindful Media

Building Bridges

Headspace

Waking Up

READ

Before Your Scroll, Try this Mindful Social Media Practice

How Mindfulness Can Free Us from Our Social Media Tribe

WATCH
LISTEN

Listen to the Mindfulness for Beginners

Listen to The Joy Factor

Find Your Voice

self reflection exercise:

What is the purpose of your online voice?

One of the main components to becoming a media literate digital citizen is understanding and reflecting on our own use of the media and how it impacts our life.

One crucial component of this is reflecting upon the purpose of your online voice: How do you use your voice? On whose behalf? Does engaging your voice online add value to your life and the lives of others? Do you feel your online voice accurately represents you and your beliefs?

Connecting your online voice to a deeper sense of purpose through self-reflection is one step towards becoming a media literate digital citizen. So please, take a moment and reflect.

Whether you choose to write your response here or…

Converse with another human

go for a walk

talk to your dog

put it on paper

consider it quietly

draw it out

write a song

put motion to your thoughts

drink some whiskey with a friend.

Take one step towards becoming more aware of the digital forces impacting your life.