What to Do When The Internet and TV Harsh On Your Mellow
Welcome back! This week, we’re going to tackle a topic that a few commenters brought up in the last Challenge.
Erika: “I’ve found that blog[s] typically have contributed to my cynicism and decreased empathy towards people. I tend to read many political blogs and or celeb gossip blogs, which inherently make me hate the world most of the time.”
CGMcBG: “I struggle with this also. I stopped watching the news a bit after 9/11, but the internet had [sort of] taken [its] place. I want to stay informed, but it’s hard to remain positive in light of such worldwide madness. How do you balance the two? (rhetorical question)”
One of the things that got me actively thinking about Positivity was noticing the effect that vitriolic media was having on me. Without making this political, one person that really chafed me (so to speak) was Sarah Palin. I could (almost) deal with her on the campaign trail. But when she didn’t go away after her loss, I could feel my teeth clench every time I saw her on Today or saw another story on HuffPo about another stupid thing she said or did. My husband dreaded it, too, because I would go off on a rant about her, which isn’t the nicest thing to wake up to.
I don’t know what specifically happened or what prompted it, but one day, I had a couple of realizations. First, the kind of bitching about her overexposure that I was falling into was exactly the reason she was able to be so overexposed. These stories got hits. They might have been hate-hits, but hits nonetheless, so that prompted more stories. Second, these built-up, festering, negative feelings that were being generated within me–well, she wasn’t worth it. She wasn’t worth my time, my energy, or my happiness, and I had been giving her all three. Now, I realize that it wasn’t Sarah Palin herself doing this all to me. I was doing it myself. So I was in control of it.
I made a blacklist. I didn’t read deliberately incendiary articles related to Palin. When a news story came on the TV, I changed the channel. I expanded my black list to include anything that frustrated me for no good reason. Charlie Sheen, Michele Bachmann, fandom in-fighting, Kim Kardashian’s marital status–anything that had no bearing on things happening in real life and served no purpose other than to sensationalize things–went on the blacklist. After a few months of this, I’ve been able to get to a point where I can read or see the stories and not be compelled to engage. It’s a big step.
There are some things we can’t ignore, though. Things that do affect our daily lives. Things that are worth getting upset about. So, as CGMcBG asked, how do you find that balance? The balance will be different for everyone, but here are some ways that might help you find yours:
- Figure out how much snark you can handle. I know we’re a bunch of snarky ladies here, so this is a good first step. If you can snark without getting emotionally involved, have at it. If you can’t, then you might need to decide whether snarking or positivity is more important. Your priorities might change from day to day. Or you might be able to snark emotionlessly about some topics and not others.
- Determine your triggers. You know the expression “That makes my blood boil”? Figure out what makes you feel that way–things like what I listed above. Other things that get my dander up: pro-life and anti-gay marriage legislation, sanctimonious Facebook updates from specific people who annoy me already, people complaining about Facebook updates that annoy them, stories about missing children or rape victims that become more about blaming the victims or the lack of communication between parents than about getting help for the people in trouble. That’s a short list.
- Make your blacklist. Pick out those things that don’t deserve the energy you put into hating them. Put them on your blacklist. Turn off the channel, don’t click that link, hide that annoying person.
- Examine your red list. Your red list contains those things that you’re mad as hell about and you’re not going to take anymore. Politicians trying to take your rights away? Yeah, you should be pissed about that. Bigotry? Intolerance? Yes, something needs to be done. These important issues shouldn’t be ignored.
- Do something about it. Engage, but don’t engage when you’re emotional. Give yourself a moment to think things over. Determine whether the person you’re engaging is even worth it. Focus your outrage elsewhere by volunteering for an organization or informatively engaging with those who just need to be educated on these topics.
- Find positive media. Instead of posting that story about how much funding is being taken away from Planned Parenthood, find that story about the amazing things that PP is doing. Focus on the good instead of dwelling on the bad.
- Give yourself a break. Some days, it’s just too much. You’re not the people’s crusader and you can’t be the person sticking up for your causes all the time. If it’s bringing you down too much, take a day off. And don’t feel guilty about it.
This Week’s Challenge
If you’re at a point where you know you need to detatch yourself from your emotional involvement in media, start determining your triggers and making your blacklist. Turn off the TV, go to another site, ask people to stop posting links about that trigger on your wall. Explain to them what you’re trying to do, and they’ll probably be respectful. Start to re-frame your involvement. If one of your triggers is a certain candidate, start advocating for the one you believe in. If a trigger is frustration with rape culture, start promoting movements that work against that. Do one thing positive to combat something that angers you this week.
This Week’s Mantra
To keep you going when you want to rant about Rick Santorum: “Promote what you love instead of focusing on what you hate.”
If you want a reminder of your mantra for the next two weeks, feel free to click the image below to download a wallpaper-sized version.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional or mental health expert, and there are problems that positivity cannot overcome, so please do not take this advice in lieu of a doctor’s care.
Not all challenges will be relevant to everyone, so I welcome you to come and go as you please and take from each change what works for you! Please make sure to share your thoughts in the comments!