During an age where media divides, an entrepreneur reminds us that we can reimagine the way media influences our world.
Photo Credits: Linda Carroll LC Photography
Americans’ trust in media is falling slowly and steadily. As of 2021, only 36% of the population voted that they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media. This is down four percentage points from last year, and is the second lowest level in all of Gallup polling history.
Media plays an integral role in how we understand the world around us, yet statistics like this and other studies suggest that it is not quite serving its purpose in our lives. The living reference work, The Palgrave Handbook of Ethnicity, by Steven Ratuva, suggests media actually breeds more ignorance. Popular television shows and news channels use stereotypes to create narratives that separate us from one another, like man vs woman, white vs people of color, republican vs democrat, or unvaccinated vs vaccinated.
We’ve seen that this division has cost us our strength, security, and connection as a society. By adopting narratives that are portrayed to us without questioning them, we welcome labels, stereotypes, and other types of negative thinking to govern the way we think about ourselves and others.
Some of us have taken it upon ourselves to challenge those narratives and create a new story that empowers people in an extraordinary way. Amanda “Kazzy” Cryer, a filmmaker and social impact entrepreneur is the co-founder of Big Change Makers, alongside Mel Wymore, a seasoned systems engineer and impact strategist. Together, they aim to not only challenge divisive narratives, but empower individuals and organizations to shift the systems that perpetuate those narratives and other damaging effects.
Through Big Change Makers, Cryer and Wymore work to provide people with the tools they need to harness their passion, overcome obstacles, hone in their skills, and make measurable change in the world where they envision it. They encourage people of all walks of life to see and think outside of the box as they create a world with more compassion and less conflict and pain.
Cryer stepped into this field of work after spending more than 20 years in the filmmaking industry, and witnessing the impact of stereotyping and media negatively shaping the world that she loved. “People see atrocities and problems on the news and social media, but they don’t get to see any real change. Since they don’t see it happening, they believe that they also can’t make a difference, so they just accept it and deal with the harshness of the world in the best way they can,” she says. “This is severely impacting our mental health on a global scale.”
That’s why Cryer believes we have to be more cognizant of the messaging we’re putting out because we’re either disempowering people to take action, or we’re empowering them to know that they’re the ones who can make a difference.
“Are we going to get behind people who want to make a real difference and empower them
“Are we involving ourselves in conversations that have to do with divisive narratives? Or are we involving ourselves in conversations that are about uniting humanity?” Cryer adds. As a social impact influencer and someone who has transformed countless “us/them” conflicts in social media into co-creative conversations, she understands well the value of dialogues that need to be had.
“It’s challenging, because certain things have to be addressed, but we have to establish new habits and norms. We also have to be committed to uniting humanity. Otherwise, we drive stakes in between us,” she says.
Cryer is committed to bringing people together, but not to simply assert their opinions, as opinions often breed more division and debate. Instead, she wants to unite people to co-create solutions together, grounded in universal values like compassion, dignity, and love.
“Our opinions don’t really matter. Everyone’s got one. It’s important to move beyond that and become really good listeners. And we have to listen from a space of wanting compassion, not just for ourselves, but for everyone around us,” she concludes.
Compassion is something that runs deeply within our friend circles and families, but compassion for strangers is something that is lacking in our society. Media that we consume plays a big role in this, but we are witnessing as this slowly changes with the work of people like Amanda Cryer. She encourages each of us to unlearn what we’ve learned about one another, step outside of the boxes we’ve been put in – and that we’ve also subconsciously and consciously put ourselves in – and make change where it’s needed most.