It feels like bad stuff is happening all the time at the moment. Part of that is because it is, I mean, 2020, right? The global pandemic, hellish elections, climate change, war, police brutality, white supremacy, refugee crises - the list goes on and on and on.
But it’s not just that. A huge part of the reason it feels so bad right now is because of the 24 hour news cycle that’s constantly telling us every bad thing that happens, as soon as it happens.
We’re plugged into what’s happening around the world all day every day. When the Supreme Court swings even more conservative, we know about it as soon as it happens. When there’s a forest fire or a deadly earthquake or a new heat record on the other side of the world, we know instantly. You could read all of those headlines and take in all of that information in the time it takes you to have your first sip of coffee in the morning. We see so much terrible information constantly, that we think everything is constantly terrible. And on one hand it is, but on the other hand, it always has been.
For all of human history, bad things have been happening all day every day, we just only heard about it when we read the paper in the morning or watched the news at 6pm. We used to get our bad news in small, controlled doses and now we’re hooked up to a bad news IV drip. How do we escape it? Is it possible?
I know I desperately want to unplug from the news, to disengage from politics, to live my own life independently of whatever else is going on in the world, to find happiness only from what I can control. But that also seems impossible to me.
Take the 2020 US election for example. I’ve spent the last four years dreading what might happen. I know the outcome I hope for, but I’ve learned something about the futility of hope since 2016.
I’ve tried to make plans for that day. Plans for what I could do to not hear the news. Go to the beach without my phone? Go lie in a field of flowers without my phone? Go drive off a cliff without my phone?
Obviously, I’ll still have to hear the news at some point. I can’t avoid it forever. But I can already anticipate the way bad news will make me feel, and I don’t want to feel that way.
To me it feels like once you’ve become politically engaged, it’s almost impossible to switch off. Once you’ve started to really care, how do you manage the impact election results will have on your mental health? And are those my only options - stop caring or care and be this close to a panic attack at all times?
I truly don’t know the answers, but I’d love to hear them. This is a question mark of an essay, written before the results of the American election. If you know how to disengage from the news and how to untangle your mental health from political outcomes, please let me know. Future readers who know who wins: Are you okay? Am I okay? Who knows? With any luck, I might still be in that field of flowers, rotting away in my phone-free, newsless bliss.Support Villainesse