What Is The Bridge Effect?

 
The Bridge Effect Foundation, Inc., was formed as a positive-focused, proactive countermeasure to the prevalence in today's media of elevating our community's anxieties, fears, and tension levels.
 
We propose to accomplish this by:
 
1. Create a tension-measuring tool to gather current social tension levels and form a measurement system to identify social tension levels.
 
2. Continue to populate this tool with real-time data on a quarterly to monthly basis to measure social tension levels.
 
3. Implement proactive countermeasures to anxiety and community tensions, such as create community centers designed to reduce anxiety, present positive social engagement events, and generate positive media images and communications for Martin and St. Lucie Counties.
 
4. Monitor to see if, in the areas where de-escalation centers, social engagement and positive media have been dispersed, whether tension levels are reduced.
 
5. Continue to monitor and communicate tension levels in an effort to sustain any positive gains and to proactively identify when tension levels are on the rise.
 
Why Do We Need the Bridge Effect?
 
Case Study:  Current Google Image Search for Current Law Enforcement Trends
 
I conducted a google image-search today, April 22, 2017, using the two keywords "cop, teenager." These are the first image results that appear:
4-22-17 Google Images search top results for "cop, teenager"

There is one positive image result of a law enforcement officer "serving and protecting" the community on this page. Can you find it?
 
The second row, third image from the left, is a police officer using crisis de-escalation training to soothe an autistic child who was contemplating suicide. Out of these images displayed -- why is there only one positive interaction between law enforcement and the public visible?
 
For people unfamiliar with how search engines work, it would be easy to incorrectly correlate that the ratio of negative-to-positive images displayed was representative of the current behavior of law enforcement officers.
 
 A review of the most current data for the arrests of all local and state law enforcement officers in the United States between 2005-2011 proves differently. It reported that U.S. law enforcement had a totla of 6,724 arrests -- with 5745 convictions. The study, conducted by Bowling Green State University, found this data equates to approximately 1,000 arrests of police officers per year. That means, during the years of the study, there was a rate of 1.7 arrests per 100,000 officers. In comparison, the rate of civilian arrests during that time was 3,888 per 100,000 people.  (source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/cops-arrested_us_576c2e13e4b0cedfa4b9470f)
 
But even the article that this data comes from tries to remove objectivity and use the media platform to shift public opinion from the facts presented in the article. Just looking at the data presented, indicates that police officers, despite being just as human as the people they serve, are 99.9996% less likely to break the laws they uphold than a regular citizen. That, however, is not how the article presents the data. I will simply ask, "Why?"
 
One answer could be the shift of news sources from non-profit entities to profit-based programming. The need to remain solvent seems to have become more important than the need to deliver fact-based news.

A Psychology Today article claims:
"News programming sets their operational priorities on the mantra of,  "if it bleeds, it leads." Fear-based news programming has two aims. The first is to grab the viewer's attention. In the news media, this is called the teaser. The second aim is to persuade the viewer that the solution for reducing the identified fear will be in the news story."
It goes on further to state:
"...some news stations work with consultants who offer fear-based topics that are pre-scripted, outlined with point-of-view shots, and have experts at-the-ready. This practice is known as stunting or just-add-water reporting. Often, these practices present misleading information and promote anxiety in the viewer."

The Result?
"The distressing fall-out from this trend is that children and adults who are exposed to media are more likely than others to:
(a) feel that their neighborhoods and communities are unsafe
(b) believe that crime rates are rising
(c) overestimate their odds of becoming a victim, and
(d) consider the world to be a dangerous place."
 
(Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/two-takes-depression/201106/if-it-bleeds-it-leads-understanding-fear-based-media)
 
Reaction: How Does This Disparity Make Us 'Feel'? 

Looking back at the images above; based on what we retreived from our search, what is your feeling toward police? Just from what you have seen on TV and in the media, how you "feel" that law enforcement is doing?  Do you think, if people knew the actual statistics about the low levels of criminal activity that occurs in law enforcement that it could sway public opinion  to be more supportive of current community improvement initiatives, or when additional funds were needed to support their local police departments?
 
The real problem is that we don't know if this information has changed public opinion. As a community, we currently don't have current or real-time information to support an accurate depiction of how the community is feeling about the services they are provided, their current levels of tension, or what services they feel are most needed today.
 
Is There an Increase in Tension in our Society?
 
It takes a lot of social tension to incite civil unrest. A cursory review of civil unrest incidents that have been captured in wikipedia from 1990 through 2016 shows a concerning image; are currently on a path to a 350-percent increase in unrest incidents by the close of this decade. 
(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_incidents_of_civil_unrest_in_the_United_States)
 
A possibly non-related but interesting similar significant statistical increase has been the "tenfold increase in number of adults (65%) that now use social media/networking sites, according to the Pew Research Group.
(source: http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/10/08/social-networking-usage-2005-2015/)
 
Pew Research Group has also identified that "62 Percent of American Adults Get Their News From Social Media Sites."
(Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/paulfletcher/2016/05/28/two-thirds-of-adults-get-news-from-social-media/#fc7beb0422a3)
 
These conditions do not immediately cause concern when looked at separately. Now consider that, over the past three decades, The Wall Street Journal recently published an article that reported, "Americans have lost the ability to comprehend what is fact and what is opinion. Some 82% of middle-schoolers couldn’t distinguish between an ad labeled 'sponsored content' and a real news story on a website, according to a Stanford University study of 7,804 students from middle school through college."
(source: https://www.wsj.com/articles/most-students-dont-know-when-news-is-fake-stanford-study-finds-1479752576)
 
What Could this Mean to our Community?

Identified Conditions:
1. A significant portion of those community members may not be able to comprehend what is fact versus what is opinion on social media.
2. significant portion of your community receives its news and information from social media.
3. The images and information presented in social media is dis-proportionately focused on negative activity and incidents.
 
Hypothesis:
Our hypothesis is that the mis-representation of current community conditions by social media and anxiety-causing news reporting has caused an increased level of tension and anxiety in our community.
 
Test:
1. Find a method to identify and collect current tension drivers and levels at regular intervals.
2. Regularly assess tension levels and watch for rising or lowering trends.
3. Create anxiety-reducing programs and implement them areas where tension/anxiety are at the
     highest rates.
4. Monitor whether tensions levels are reduced at accellerated rates or remain at lower levels where
     programs have been implemented.
5. Present information for peer review and corroboration.