With stories of natural disasters, acts of violence, and political corruption flooding news outlets every day, it’s easy to think that society is falling apart. In fact, cultural theorist George Gerbner coined the term “mean world syndrome” to describe the phenomenon of people perceiving the world as more violent and dangerous than it really is because of the news. While many people simply sit back and shake their heads when they read about these events, actress and political activist Olivia Wilde thinks people should be doing something about them.
The 29-year-old “TRON” and “House M.D.” star founded RYOT.org to help readers get involved in the news. Wilde, the daughter of two journalists, launched her cutting-edge news outlet with the intention of providing both information on important global stories and causes, and the means to contribute directly to helping them.
“RYOT is a chance for people to read the news and then participate in it, to approach news actively instead of passively,” said Wilde in an AOL “Acting Disruptive” video. “We create ways that you can immediately participate in some way to help the situation.”
According to the RYOT website’s About page, the name RYOT is not an acronym, but comes from the Hindi word for “peasant,” an untouchable person without a voice, as well as the Martin Luther King Jr. quote, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” The philosophy behind the organization is that anyone can make an impact, no matter who they are, through productive, organized effort rather than succumbing to chaos.
Wilde told AOL host Max Lugavere that RYOT allows readers to understand their responsibility as citizens. An “action” box accompanies each article published on the site, giving anyone the opportunity to make a positive impact on the issue at hand. Some stories link to donation pages, while others allow readers to sign a petition or simply share the article on social media to raise awareness. Wilde believes that this new model of journalism will particularly appeal to millennials.
“I think you see a lot of people of our generation finding interesting ways of approaching the world of philanthropy,” she said. “Technology has changed the way we approach entertainment in all ways. It’s become much more interactive. It was only a matter of time before the news did the same.”
Learn more about RYOT, Wilde’s recent trip to Senegal to work with health care agencies and her insights into social responsibility in this edition of “Acting Disruptive.”