One of the best things being off on hols is being away from negative world news nonstop. Lo and behold, there's a different world out there.
— Syl (@Gypsy_Syl) July 27, 2016
It’s been a seriously depressing year concerning all kinds of bad world news: wars still waging at our doorstep and the refugee crisis in Europe, terrorist attacks or attacks presented as such in the media, mass shootings in a closer vicinity than usual, the UK falling for Brexit and the kind of American presidential race that leaves the most wordy of us speechless. New heights of low or so it seems, and our wonderfully untrustworthy, biased media to tell us all about it – or not.
That is from our perspective, for the mostly white, well-off and pampered it’s been an “exhausting year” having to hear so much of that, naturally from the safety of our homes but anyway it’s been scarier than usual and maybe, we even know someone more personally affected. For others not belonging to said demographic it’s been a year like every other, I’m sure – getting by somehow or far worse, either way no time to follow Brexit live tickers on an expensive phone.
BREAKING: Countless Americans express outrage about something that 3 days ago they knew nothing about.
— nate corddry (@imnatecorddry) June 24, 2016
Being present on social media and twitter especially, I admit for a moment this shit really started to suck me in, too. I generally keep informed and I have some appreciation for political satire. Unfortunately, even the “funny” Trump videos on youtube stopped being funny long time ago. The internet has become a toxic wasteland of paranoia when it comes to convoluted trigger words like terrorism and many more -isms like it. No doubt there have been great demonstrations of “online solidarity” during events like the Paris attacks too but they’re drowned out by hysteria and frankly ever increasing racist and xenophobic sentiments, to name a few.
This is not where I want to be.
Why I choose to unplug
Over a year ago my partner started pruning and “sanitizing” his twitter and other media consumption from all negativity, including a huge bulk of political news channels, more comedic ones included. To say this took me by surprise coming from someone so political would be an understatement but by now I understand completely. It’s not just that the negativity is crushing, it’s also unhinged in many ways, often factually wrong and fueled by questionable, shady channels and sources.
Still, it took me a moment to get to that point. I followed the Brexit drama on twitter this early summer, I read different articles and viewpoints on the Orlando shooting and an ever darker cloud started to settle over all my social channels. But then I went back to Italy in July and realized I’d been starting to lose sight of reality –
“Fa caldo” says Giuseppe, like every other night when we frequent our favorite Albergo restaurant at the Adria, the one I have been going to for 30 years. During that same time span there have been several “economic recessions”, not to mention wars and we’ve been collectively afraid of WW3 at least five times, if I remember correctly. Anyway, it’s still the same building with the same blue and white fountain in front and the same home-made Italian cooking I remember from when I was a child. Some tourists at the other table read a newspaper with a big headline about Brexit, or Syria or Hillary Clinton. “The same every day”, Giuseppe shakes his head, he is clearly not impressed. “But here?” he says, “we have sun, food and each other, no? It’s all that matters”.
The world is not a scary place full of evil people. It is a huge place, not the selected fraction we hear about in our daily news. There are not terrorists hiding behind every corner trying to get us. The great, great majority of this planet is inhabited by people who want exactly the same as me: a roof over their head, food on the table, their friends and family safe, peace and happiness. Wherever I have traveled thus far there have been friendly, warm and real people with similar values everywhere, going about their daily lives being completely ignored by “world news”. Nobody reports on our shared daily life; it’s boring and it can’t be used to divide us against each other.
Inform or not – but always beware paranoia
Initial sarcasm aside, it goes without saying that I’m not trying to make light of horrific events that have gone down this year and go on right now in certain places of the world. Being a target of hate or becoming victim of an attack is terrifying; if it happened to me or anyone I knew personally, I’d be devastated and angry. However participating in the fear and negativity that’s being nurtured collectively through social media serves nothing and nobody. It only fills me with unproductive dread. I’ve been following stories that I have zero influence over for so long, it really begs the question how sacrificing my energy on the altar of vicarious woe is helpful when I could be using it on things and people actually around me. Because let’s face it, when it comes to scary world news, we have exactly two options:
- A) Read/listen to more bad shit until head is filled up with worry and you’re feeling down. Then go on with your life as usual.
- B) Don’t read/listen to more bad shit until head is filled up with worry and you’re feeling down. Then go on with your life as usual.
If there’s anything more productive created for you personally, then great – you’re the exception! Maybe someone actually drops their day-job over twitter crazy and becomes an activist or politician but more realistically, this is not what happens. What we do is dip in a daily dose of crowd hysteria and I suspect our reasons range anywhere from earnest empathy to sensationalism and privilege guilt. I sure believed for a time that I “had to” keep myself informed, that somehow as an involved world citizen, I needed to subject myself to insanity. In truth, I’ve changed nothing but my state of mind – for the worse.
So nope. I really don’t have to follow this stuff! I can’t trust this post-factual age of news reporting we live in and I trust fear-mongering even less, no matter how personal. Fear is the magnifying glass that leads to paranoia. Paranoia means losing sight of all proportion and reality. I know for a fact that the world is not this dark place filled with”others”. I know for a fact that 2016 isn’t by far “the worst year we’ve had” – all it takes is opening a history book. And I know that overall things have actually been getting better slowly but surely and for more people, thanks to research done by people like Max Roser (who is worth following on twitter!). If you feel down on the world, whenever possible take a trip to wherever really, as far as you can – smell foreign air, see for yourself.
I’m going to Gamescom next week. I understand some fellow gamers have mixed feelings about the size of the event or fear for their friends. I thank everyone who told me to take care because I appreciate what they’re saying; but first of all, I wouldn’t even know how to do that and secondly, I refuse to be paranoid. Already the bad feels are starting to creep in and I have to violently shake them off and deny them; this exactly is paranoia!
— Jonathan Doyle (@Ardua) August 7, 2016
We will go to Gamescom and we will have a royally epic time. We will hug new friends when we finally meet them, we will play and laugh and celebrate this life because that’s the only way to spite the darkness. We’ll look after those we actually can because they’re in our immediate environment. And if we’re still all screwed anyway by next year because nuclear war / global warming / godzilla / take a pick, heck at least we enjoyed the time we had!