There’s cruelty, political and social fighting, trashed cities, angry, bitter viper-like celebrities, and the unnerving realization people still find that Poo emoji endearing. It gets downright depressing after awhile. If this summer’s circulating clips of eternal peril were any indication, it is only getting worse.
At least, that’s the sense I get when I concentrate too long on my world contained in my 11” X 17” online office space.
As someone who spends much of my workday using (and getting horribly distracted by) a computer, I developed sort of invisible layer of sadness and depression I just couldn’t shake, even when I wasn’t online.
I couldn’t play with my rescued pets without thinking of those rescue videos featuring gut wrenching “before” images of neglected animals. I couldn’t play board games with my children or help them with homework, without that overwhelming feeling of guilt for abused and starving families around the world.
I couldn’t carry on a conversation with either my conservative or liberal friends and acquaintances, worried I might say the wrong thing to the wrong person. Trigger Warning!!!! Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, it seems everyone is ready to pop their heads open in knee-jerky anger at those with other views than themselves.
I’ve mentioned before I don’t own a smart phone, so when I was away from the computer, I was completely away from media interaction…or was I? No matter what I was doing, the effects of keeping that social media feed open when working on actual paying jobs were still with me.
I realized I needed more and more time away from this portal of alarming information (whether it was politically driven or other) to regain the emotional strength it takes to be a functional parent, wife, employee, and even just a decent human being.
I increased daily dog walking an extra block or so, sat outside more, with or without a book, threw myself into DIY and fix-it projects, but none of these got me too far away from the home. I needed to get out and see what that terrible world shown to us on the computer screen was really like.
So, I got out.
Then it hit me: there were no protests in the streets (for whatever the outrage of the week was), nor were there rows of left wing and right wing folk facing off and lobbing verbal (and literal) fireworks at each other.
Everyone was just going about his or her business. There have been the odd demonstration and conflict where I live, but most days, people have too many other things to distract them from that political chasm on which we are supposed to pick a side.
Not long ago, my family took a trip from Oklahoma to California along Route 66, and stopped one late afternoon to get photos at the official “Midpoint” in the Texas panhandle. There were three other cars when we got there, a Prius with an environmentalist bumper sticker, a Mercedes, a sensible something with a Jesus fish (I’m going to say a it was Hyundai, maybe), and the four of us in our Ford Escape.
The Mercedes was driven by two thirtysomething gay men on their honeymoon, the sensible thing by a traditional family with young children, and the Prius by a solo traveler with “white guy dreadlocks” in his early 20s. What happened when this group (including us) all met up in the middle? We took turns taking each other’s pictures in front of the landmark, talked about where we had been and where we here headed, and gave each other suggestions for photo ops and side trips.
That’s real life. No one struck up a political debate, or challenged each other’s lifestyle or faith. We all just were happy someone else was there to hold the camera.
Yes, the world can be a vile, sad and depressing, divided place, filled with people who want nothing more than to make it worse by digging hashtag-laden barbs into each other whenever they can. The Internet shows us that quite well.
Yet, once you step away from the computer screen, it is also a fun, beautiful, wide-open space of people just living life. Where sometimes, just sometimes, what is perceived on social media isn’t always typical.
Sometimes, we need to fight for what we believe, no doubt. Other times, though, we are all just happy to have someone willing to hold the camera.