I’ve been seeing a flurry of people lately who are deeply troubled by what is happening to the South. It’s a little like living next to a neighbour who plays loud music all night, and has decided that restoring a TransAm on their front lawn is a priority in their life.
Many people feel the tension and fatigue of ‘what next?’ as we check the news or read our social media. Regardless of one’s political opinion this is exhausting and frankly bears more resemblance to watching a marathon run of a reality TV show, than anything we’ve seen previously in our neighbour’s politics. Add to this that the iniquities of the application of Trumpian policies – kids in cages, ICE raids that leave children used as a tool to deter often valid asylum seekers – and you can see that we’re inundated with news and information of a highly upsetting nature.
It seems that the war of words between Trump and (fill in the blank on any day) leaves us all feeling frustrated and exhausted. Worse than that, it seems this kind of news environment drags us all down. The good news is that it really doesn’t need to be this way. Most of us are getting a massive oversupply of garbage information.
As one who uses social media in my business, I am under no illusions about the power of it. I also know when to step away from the screen. The fact is, we’re still all learning how to use the new tools at our disposal. Currently it’s as though there’s a firehose of news pointed at us, and we can’t ingest a fraction of it. Many clients describe feeling debilitated by their Facebook feed. Well, and you may need to sit down to fully assimilate this piece of information… There is an off switch.
Spending a morning without reading the news, or listening to it, is a great idea now and then. Without wishing to sound like ‘The Secret’, there’s a lot to be said for the idea that where we place our attention is what we bring into our life. Focusing on the dreadful failures of moral and ethical standards of leadership in the US cannot serve us well.
As an aside, it’s worth listening to this BBC documentary about Andrew Carnegie. His philanthropy in the closing years on the 19th century gives an indication of how very far US values have deteriorated. By current values Carnegie gave away something in the order of $300 billion (yes billion) in support of education, making him easily the most generous donor in history. The philosophy of ‘a hand up, rather than a hand out’ was an example few have followed, with some notable exceptions.
I don’t wish to suggest a Polyanna like approach to life, however we do need to focus on those things we can affect and bring a positive change to. You can avoid a lot of unnecessary stress simply by staying on point with the issues that affect us today, here and now. We are blessed in Canada with a generally liberal understanding and approach to life without retreating to the cowardice of nationalism and xenophobia. We don’t need to be part of that debate. We also have leaders who, on the whole, we can respect and feel proud of, on all sides of the political spectrum, as they represent the varying hues of Canadian values.
When you read social media posts that either make you angry or you agree with strongly, there’s a pretty good chance you’re being manipulated. I won’t go into the many ways to either be trolled or manipulated online, however I do think we can all agree that there are many people out there simply looking for a reaction, just like a schoolyard bully. We can deny these people the pleasure of a reaction simply by keeping our own counsel and preserving our own boundaries.
Personally I barely use Facebook these days, which I find the most invasive and dangerous of social media platforms. Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of social media. However, I believe it is a tool and should be used in a specific manner. My own approach is to have a select number of friends on Whatsapp and Snapchat and keep my use of these systems to conversations and communication, without the search for news. From time to time I check BBC or CBC, but I do my best to limit the amount I expose myself to stories that appall me. I know I will get my say at the next election.
And if I am really incensed by what’s going on out there? Well, that’s the time to volunteer to put your energy behind a local political party and perhaps make some new friends in the process.