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I have been getting very emotionally caught up in the Internet lately. It hasn’t helped that there has been terrible tragic news on a regular basis and everyone seems to have a strong opinion about it. It also doesn’t help that our country’s election cycle is a circus and someone affiliated with a candidate who is about to lead our country says something stupid or wrong. I’ve felt this trickle down to the point where I’ve started to dislike people I actually like... because of the way they respond to the news cycle online. It’s making me depressed. I know I should “unplug” and be the smarter, patient, understanding person that I want to see in the world, but as a coach and parent, it is also my job to be able to respond to what my kids ask me about the news cycle, and the opinions that they hear. How do I balance this without letting it get to me? Is there any way to be plugged into the world without getting incredibly overwhelmed and saddened by it?
Who isn’t feeling this way lately? Without even clicking through to read articles, the headlines on the front page of CNN.com can feel like an assault. Add in all of the unsolicited (crazy) opinions about these “news” items from people you love on Facebook, and it can be a heroic feat to even look at the internet most days. So, first of all, you’re not wrong to feel this way. This is a very normal, universal response to the current state of things. Here’s how to manage it.
First, it helps to remember not all “news” is news.
You’ve heard the old saying “don’t believe everything you read in the paper,” right? The modern version of that would be “don’t read everything you see on the internet.” Blogging (ahem) works at a much quicker pace than newspaper reporting and there’s no limit to editors’ thirst for content. So, you see a lot of sensational stories and opinions about them churned out over and over, especially the more depressing and salacious events. Not to make light of serious situations, but do we really need to know what happened to one person in China who made a simple mistake at an animal park? And do we really, really need to see graphic video of it? Probably not. So, use your judgements when you glance at headlines that feel icky or like TMI or like they might give you nightmares.
Choose safe sources.
Is there an outlet you trust to be gentle, smart, and well-reasoned with you? Maybe the New York Times gets it right or a certain lifestyle blog or just one smart, informed, sensitive person you follow on Twitter? Why not just let them be your informant for a bit, at least until November and then if you need to, move to northern Quebec and don’t learn French and live out your days in ignorant bliss.
You do not, as a parent or coach, need to know everything about everything.
You know what’s fun? Being clueless sometimes. Everyone loves that person at the party who has no idea what’s up because then they get to give an explainer and feel really smart in comparison. Be that clueless person! Lean in! Why not let your kids play the experts sometimes? If someone on the team you coach asks you what they’re supposed to think of the latest mass shooting or Donald Trump’s stupid ass, respond with either “I’m not your mom, go ask your mom,” or “Well, what would you have me think?” Kids are so smart and opinionated and they might be able to filter some of this awful shit through their cute little baby brains and turn it into something weird or funny or enlightening, as kids are known to do. Revel in that and don’t worry about being yet another voice of authority who tells them what to think about every goddamn thing.
However! If you can tell that what they’re really seeking is comfort, and not answers, offer a hug and an “I’m sorry the world sucks sometimes. But you can always count on me.” And then stick to that promise.
Unfriend or mute assholes on Facebook.
This includes your racist uncle and you gun-loving ex. There was a time when etiquette dictated that we avoid talk about politics or religion at the dinner table. Well now the dinner table is Facebook and Twitter, and everyone has thrown manners out the window along with nice china and actual silver silverware. If you’re worried that you might completely ostracize yourself from your family or friends by going on an unfriending or blocking-spree, send a blanket message while doing so. The honesty and compassion in your letter could be translated into a Facebook post that reads something like, “Dear friends and family, The news cycle right now is stressing me out. I appreciate that you all have opinions and feel strongly that we need to discuss current events here, but I’m going to take a break from it for a bit by filtering some posts out of my feed. Feel free to DM me if you think I missed something important.” And then start blocking the shit out of everyone. You can do it now without them even noticing by going to their page, clicking on the button in the upper right that says “Following” and selecting “Unfollow.” Tah-dah! They’re basically dead to you.
Complain to someone.
You know you aren’t the only person feeling this way, right? Like, we are ALL feeling this way right now. It IS too much, it IS heartbreaking, it IS depressing and and frustrating. Sometimes the best answer is just to bitch about it with your sane friends. The next time your crazy aunt posts something about her vote for Bernie going to Trump, just forward it to your meanest, smartest, funniest friend and go to town on that nut job, together. It feels good to vent, which you know because you vented to us. ;)
Lastly, go easy on yourself.
You said, “I’ve started to dislike people I actually like because of the way they respond to the news cycle online. It’s making me depressed.” Oh no! No. Go get a massage. Go to therapy. Chill the fuck out. People are idiots! (Especially online!) It’s okay to not like all of them all the time and to just like you instead. Self-care is really important during stressful times, and you should indulge in it and not feel like the one who needs to bend over backwards and make yourself uncomfortable in order to be understanding or loving toward anyone but you. And maybe your kid, unless your kid is an asshole, too.
Jane Marie is a writer and the music supervisor at This American Life.