Pick a Side. Any Side

Guest Post: Olivia Bohringer, Student of the World

Political parties, gender roles, majors in college, personality quizzes, cultural backgrounds, generational differences, religious identify, fashion choices: decisions we make as frequently as every day or as rarely as once in lifetime, each choice asks us to pick a side. Choose a loyalty. What do you stand for? What will you fall for?

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Source: Discovery Magazine, April 2014

Media professionals have an exceptional obligation to loyalties. On one hand, we go into the Deep Dark World of Media to advocate for the underdogs and to touch the most human part of our audiences. But we also sign up to be journalists, agency junkies, copywriters, producers, and communications people to bring in a paycheck. We sit in classes and learn how to work through ethical dilemmas and where to look for inspiration once we enter the real world, and we flip through textbooks and autobiographies looking for answers on how we’ll define our values. But the world of communications and media also asks us to define the values of our audiences and/or industries. A profound responsibility comes with the work in this field, being held accountable to our own set of personal ethics, to codes of action in our industries, and to our audiences.

Loyalty is often reduced to being told to pick a side. But what happens when there’s no clear line in the sand drawn? In a world of political correctness, it is often easy to proudly identify your allegiance to one side with one foot still firmly planted with the opposition. We can talk the talk, but the challenge comes with walking the walk. It’s easy to nod along when you’re in a crowd of many, but the challenge comes when the popular opinion does correspond with your own.

To ask the average student or professional to define his or her loyalties will not necessarily outline clear moral codes. It’s not easy to think about the values you’re devoted to nor the ones that you outright condemn. Perhaps it’s easy to frame loyalties as motivations; what is it that drives you? What gets you up in the morning? What do you find rewarding, and just as importantly, what is discouraging to you? Loyalty has a variety of definitions, but to identify your own, think about the decisions that you are most proud of. Think also about decisions you’ve regretted; sometimes a loyalty can’t be defined until it’s been betrayed.

Ever-shifting and ever-challenging, loyalty shapes every action we take, both personally and professionally. To understand one’s own loyalties is to understand your deepest ethos, your motivations, your most personal drivers. Loyalties reflect our upbringings and our innate values, and they grow to reflect our changing experiences; we can look at our priorities and our passions to find what drives us and calls us to action. The challenge lies in deciding which of these loyalties speak loudest, and if they speak loud enough to pick a side.

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