The “Outsider Looking In”, How Two Stories Formed a Strong Message
Last week, I finished two extremely thought-provoking stories. The first, American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. And second, a film about our world’s Social Dilemma. The stories are drastically different (really not the same at all) but I somehow had the same conclusion from both. In a world where division is all we currently see, these two wildly different, compelling stories happened to unite at the same time in my life. Did I think a fictional book about a mother/son duo running from a drug lord, and a real life narrative about factual evidence stemming from social media have the same message? Of course not, but I’d be blind if I didn’t see it..
If you haven’t read American Dirt yet, Cummins tells the vivid story of a mother and son who have lost their entire family due to a Mexican cartel. It then spirals in to a series of hardship as they pursue their journey across the border. My hands clenched the book with wide eyes as I scanned each page. I’ve never read a book so quickly in my life. And while it was jaw-dropping, beautifully written (I even had a few dreams about what was going to happen next) it wasn’t until I read the author’s note that I caught a glimpse of the message. Cummins explains her years of research, and answers a few questions she clearly knew would be asked after publishing. Knowing the book would cause controversy (because of her background) she still committed time and energy to a story she felt was worthy of reading. And that’s exactly it..
We all feel compelled at some point in our life to make our case. “Hear me out” seems to be the mantra of just about every passionate individual in today’s society. But truth be told, if we all want our stories heard, don’t we in turn have to be willing to listen?
In Social Dilemma, Tristan Harris is one of many that reveals the harmful effects that social media is having on society. The founder of the Center for Humane Technology is making it his mission to “reverse ‘human downgrading’ and re-align technology with humanity.” Not only is the film eye-opening, it breaks down each individual goal of social media platforms. Informing viewers like me (who had no real understanding of things like artificial intelligence, etc.) as to what is really going on behind our screens. Crazy, right? Facts from real-life people, bringing their insights to form a story in which they want the whole world to hear.
As I said before, two completely different stories. But what I got from both of them is this: they painted a picture for two worlds I’ve never known. Landing in my lap to simply say, “you see, we’re all just outsiders looking in.” Cummins tells the entire story purely as an outsider, based off years of research to other outsiders like me. And I, like every human being I know using social media, am just an outsider to this “seemingly harmless” screen of photos and words.
Of course there may be opposing factors, other arguments to be heard in these stories, but isn’t there always? We’re always an outsider to something in our life. But that alone is why we listen- because there’s always something to be heard.