I Need to Recalibrate

In no particular order, here are the things I’ve been doing with my time in the last few weeks:

  • Playing down my backlog of games.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a couple of indie titles, and I’m finding myself feeling highly averse to games that a year ago I would have been aching to jump into, like The Walking Dead: Michonne and the complete edition of Dragon Age: Inquisition.  My lack of enthusiasm for the former is a combination of just being too smitten with the mechanics of Life is Strange to feel like Michonne will feel like an equally satisfying experience and being reluctant to jump into more violent narratives; my lack of enthusiasm for the latter is entirely because I’ve played through the main story once before, and I know what a time sink that will be before I even get into the material I haven’t played yet.
  • Reading the news voraciously.  I know that I become a news junkie during presidential election seasons, and with the surprise election of that man I’m finding myself even more drawn to keeping up to date with what’s happening.  I don’t think I can overstate how anxious I feel whenever I think about national politics, and it’s become the thing I devote most of my free time to following.
  • Sharing what I read on Facebook.  Because I’m so introverted and because my interests run towards subjects that are so emotionally charged, I often don’t have access to social outlets offline.  I get really anxious discussing politics or religion in person, especially when I suspect the other person doesn’t share my perspective (I often default to assuming that not sharing my perspective is the same as being hostile; I know this isn’t necessarily true, but anxiety doesn’t operate in a totally rational way either).  Sharing is a way for me to get those thoughts out in a situation that feels much more low pressure to me.
  • Calling my Congressional representatives on the regular to urge them to take action to oppose that man’s administration.  This is the one concrete thing I’ve found that feels like real resistance.  I want to do more.  I need to do more.
  • Writing for my blog.  This one’s a struggle.  I take pride in keeping my posting schedule, but so many nights it just feels like too much to pull myself together enough to write about any one thing for a thousand words.  I’ve been doing this for over three years, and it’s tough sometimes.  Even while I’m sitting here writing, I feel a constant urge to go check social media or see what news has cropped up in the last half hour.

Since the election, I feel like I’ve been in a pretty constant fight or flight mode.  The initial shock has worn off (I’ve not felt like crying since the end of that first week), but there’s a low-level buzz always in the back of my mind saying over and over, This is not right.  It’s exhausting to listen to it, but it also feels like shutting it down would be a betrayal.  I know that I have cultural protections in place that ensure my life will only be minimally impacted by the policies that are going to be pushed for the next four years.  I’ll be fine, insofar as there isn’t a massively disruptive international incident (I still feel like that’s a big if, but I’m trying to manage my feelings).  I more fear that my friends who don’t belong to protected groups will be hurt.  This is the biggest source of my current anxiety, and I’m not sure how else to express it.  I’ve spent weeks loudly decrying everything going on with the incoming administration that sets off alarm bells; multiple people who don’t agree with my politics have said to me to stop being so panicked, to stop being divisive, that it won’t be as bad as I think, to try moderation to accomplish something, and all I want to say each time is I can’t stop being afraid for my friends; why do you not understand this?

It’s been a rough few weeks in a lot of ways.

I’m trying to figure out how I move into a space where I’m acting as a good ally, and it feels like I’m failing miserably.  Besides calling representatives, I’ve had multiple moments where I’ve had to wonder if there’s anything actually being accomplished by all my reading and sharing and discussing on social media.  It’s straining relationships with people who disagree with me, and I don’t think it’s actually doing any good for the people that I want to help.  In my most reflective moments, it feels like a lot of performance with no positive impact.

As I’m writing this post I’ve decided to take a break from regular Facebook use.  I spent a day just ignoring the social media platform after I realized that I was still obsessing over it when I was supposed to be getting ready to go to bed.  That was only a brief hiatus, but I’ve resolved that I really need to rethink how I’m approaching social media in general.  I can’t shut it off completely, but it doesn’t need to be the centerpiece of my activities outside of work.

Of course, that means I need to figure out what to do with all that extra time.  I estimate that at least and hour and a half of my evenings have been spent reading and sharing news through Facebook; if I’m going to cut that down or try to eliminate it completely, I need to find something else to do with that time.  I want it to be spent productively.  I don’t know how to go about making that time productive.  This is the sort of thing that I know I need to figure out on my own.  I’m motivated, so I should invest my own energy into educating myself.

Part of the rationale behind all this reflection comes from this article that I came across the other day.  It discusses the psychological impact of being constantly exposed to traumatic events elsewhere in the world via social media, and the conclusion that it comes to is that for most people, the emotional cost of being exposed to these events is indistinguishable from actual trauma in their lives; you read too much depressing news, and it instills a sense of hopelessness that discourages you from trying to do anything to change the conditions that lead to the negative event.  It’s been on my mind a lot for the last few days, and I think on a personal level it relates largely to how I’ve been engaging with social media.

So, I’m going to try to change up my habits.  We’ll see how that goes.

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