Is it just me, or does the world right now seem like a pressure cooker that’s 2 minutes from exploding? My Facebook feed seems to be filled with only 2 things right now: cute videos of animals and images of violence/hatred/political vitriol/negativity. I’ll admit it: I was neck deep in a lot of that for a very long time. Every new social issue that came forward made me feel like I had to be the mouthpiece for the underdog. And I still feel the obligation pulling at me. But after nearly being swallowed up by depression over the last year or so, I finally came to a tough conclusion. My mental health is my priority and my primary obligation.
It’s very easy to think that the world is at the brink of destruction. Every day there’s a new video of a police shooting. Every day there are more stories (and now videos) of people overdosing. Every day more stories and posts about unrest and violence across the globe. It certainly *seems* like the world is more violent than it’s ever been. Except that the statistics don’t back that up. And neither does history. The world, and the people in it, are much the same as they always have been. Mostly good, some bad, but the bad ones always get more press. And now that we have a 24 hour news cycle, that bad press is in our faces non-stop. And with our addiction to social media, that means every bit of that violence and negativity is a simple click away. And I think it’s poisoning us, our society and our views of one another.
I followed this presidential race as closely as I’ve followed every other until I finally recognized that my social media posts were becoming more and more bitter and negative. And in the end, I also realize there wasn’t much I could do about the outcome of this election. People are going to vote for who they’re going to vote for, and one or two or one hundred posts from me, no matter how informative, wouldn’t make a damn bit of difference. In reality, who gets elected to Congress matters as much, if not more, than who’s in the White House anyway. And our country has had awful leadership before and we’ve survived. I see people in a panic daily about what they’re going to do, where they’re going to go if A or B gets elected. You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to keep on keeping on. We’re going to get up and go to work and get a paycheck. We’re going to tend to our families. We’re going to get sick and get well. We’re going to get married, have babies, go on vacations, and do all the other things we do every day. Because that’s how life works. One man or woman sitting in an office in Washington has a lot less power over how good my life is than I do. And I’m not willing to keep giving that power over to politicians and criminals and the media. I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR MY OWN MENTAL HEALTH AND HAPPINESS. No one else is.
There’s a lot of money to be made in keeping people fearful and anxious. It keeps people watching the news and buying magazines and buying things to fix the existential hole they have inside. It keeps people obsessed with fitness and weight loss and aging – they’re afraid of getting old/fat/ugly/whatever. Fear keeps people from getting to know their neighbors. It keeps them buying guns and keeps them right where they are, mired in their fear and distrust. And it makes them feel miserable and helpless because they don’t see any way out of it. Then there’s the siren call of the social media notification going off every five minutes, letting you know that someone’s posted something that you just have to check immediately, because you just have to stay informed. You MUST be an informed, plugged in individual otherwise you’re part of the problem.
Well, I’m calling bullshit on that. On all of it. I’m tired of being afraid. I’m tired of being anxious. I’m tired of feeling bitter and angry every day at what I’m seeing in the media and on social media. And you know what? I am informed. I’m well-educated. I know the evils of the world quite well. But I’m not under any obligation to sit, day after day and watch the world burn. I’m just not. My only obligation is to my own mental health and happiness. My own sanity is my concern. I’m not burying my head in the sand and pretending that we don’t need serious reforms. I just have finally realized that sitting and looking at a tiny screen full of violence and hatred all day, every day isn’t going to make change happen. And what’s worse – it’s tearing people apart. And soaking all of that in just makes me unhappy. So I’m choosing to tune out most of it. I’m choosing to scroll past the political poison being shot back and forth. I’m scrolling past videos of people bleeding and dying. Because I can’t take any more of it and it’s affecting my health. It’s made me depressed and anxious and I’m tired of feeling that way. And for me, the only way through it is action. I’ll take action to make the changes that need to be made. And I’ll do my best to put more love and peace into the world. And I’ll work on quieting my own mind and bringing peace to my own life so that I am able to share that with my family and my friends and on some level, the world. I can’t help anyone if I’m so crippled by depression that I can’t leave the house.
So from here on out, my first obligation is myself and my health. And if that means that I have less social media and more actual socializing in my life, then that’s a win/win in my book.
Peace and love,