How to Keep Caring When the News Sucks
So much is happening. People are getting shot in churches and schools and cinemas. Lions are being poached for fun by rich, clueless dentists. Donald Trump keeps saying things. Never before in our lives have we had so much news, opinion, information, and outrage available to us. We could literally sit all day in front of our screens and still not be able to absorb all the crappy things that happen on any given day.
It's gotten to the point where people don't even share that link that reports another unarmed African American getting shot by a cop anymore.
This is what happens when our caring muscles get tired.
I have friends going through breakups, friends diagnosed with diseases, friends getting divorces, friends in deep depressions, friends in rehab.
I have a book I'm trying to get published and articles to write and short stories to edit.
With all this real stuff going on in our lives, I think we get relief from things that we can't control, but we can spew hatred about, because it's so easy.
All I have to do is hit that share button, spout my little opinion, and press 'Post' and then it's out there. And if people get angry, I can just ignore the comments if I don't have good answers, or if I do I can share those answers too and get even more release because I said what I thought and I can't always do that in real life.
But I don't want to get jaded. I want to learn how to keep caring even when the news sucks.
What happens is we look for new things to get angry about, like poor Cecil the lion who was shot by a dentist and now let's all get together and skin that dentist alive or handcuff him and send him on an unarmed safari because that's what he deserves. Because even though real people -- innocent defenseless people -- are getting tortured for their faith in the Middle East or shot when they took the night off to laugh at Amy Schumer, I can't find it in me to write a blog or even share a link because my caring muscles have gotten tired.
I care hard, and too much, and not enough -- all at the same time. I get sick when my friends are hurting and stressed when my country fails so it's easier to stop lifting all those burdens and just get complacent. It's easier for us to find that one little thing to get pissed about -- to fill a dentist's office with hate and demand he and his family go homeless -- than it is to realize that people make stupid mistakes that now cost them everything because social media exists.
How can we keep caring when the news sucks? Caring about people, caring about causes, caring about making a difference?
When our caring muscles get tired, we start picking up lighter things because they're easier. You start getting outraged over that shocking thing some idiot said about race instead of caring enough to try to effect change in our country's systemic racism issues. We start posting about the one kid who defended herself with her father's shotgun when a man broke into their home instead of taking any responsibility for the fact that guns are an issue even if they're not the only issue (so long, half my readers).
We start picking sides and sharing other people's opinions that are reasonably close to our own instead of actually sitting down to hash out what our opinion actually is. What are we going to teach our kids? What will we pass on, and is it worth handing to another human being in the first place? Why do we believe what we believe? What makes us see the world that way, and should we think about changing it?
If you're having a hard time caring anymore, I get it. I'm right there with you. I post on Facebook and Twitter and Google+ and Pinterest and tumblr and do all of that business. I sometimes get snippy with strangers online because I can't do that in real life and have healthy relationships, so it's easier to get that bitchy part of my out in the Internetsphere because that doesn't really count, right?
But it does count. It does matter. Social media is real life, in the sense that an actual person is on the other side of that laptop screen, but we've all somehow forgotten. We all somehow think that it's okay to talk to people a certain way because it's done through keyboards and touchscreens instead of our mouths, and we're not yelling so it's okay.
It's not okay. The problem is, we do need to give ourselves a break. We sometimes need to shut down the computer or turn off the phone, get away from the pings and the notifications, and just be. Really be with your partner or your family or your friends, right there in person, and let your caring muscles get some rest. Learn how to handle it, learn how to get stronger. Learn to stretch and flex and grow.
People dying should never stop mattering. Poverty and starvation and homelessness should never be something we just can't care about anymore. But you need to choose the things you care about, the things you can change or at least be a part of changing, or you will go crazy. It's good to care about small things when those small things make big differences.
A woman in Australia started a charity to get homeless women sanitary products to use during their periods, because we all hate having our periods but how much worse when you're on the street? And guess what, she didn't solve homelessness, but I bet what she's doing has made a huge difference in the dignity of women sleeping rough.
And it all comes down to that question: What can you do? If you have a kid or a mentee or anyone who looks up to you, what do you want them to see you doing about the things that you complain about in the world?
Sometimes, the answer might simply be that you love the people closest to you as wildly and as strongly as you can. That you put your money where your mouth is, and instead of screaming at poaching dentists through bad Yelp reviews, you donate money to the Zimbabwean Wildlife Conservation Fund to try and prevent these things from happening. That you realize that something has to change as long as massacres keep happening, and try to protect the majority of society instead of clinging to the ideal that has long passed of guns being your best source of protection.
These might not be the things you want to pass on, but they are mine. If we keep going the way we're headed, soon we will all be stuck to our screens expressing our outrage, and never bothering to do anything to change it.
Feature image credit: Tony Webster, 2008