I know I need to keep up on what’s happening in the world because I wouldn’t feel like I’m being a good citizen if I just poked my head in the sand and ignored everything around me. More to the point, it’s not in my nature to be willfully ignorant, which is why I’m never blissful. Before the 2008 election, I became obsessed with politics because I was #TeamObama from day one. The fact that a black man was running for president made politics immediately personal to me, and I had a vested interest in following his campaign.
Let me be clear. I have been a Democrat since I could vote, and I have only voted for a non-Democrat (Nader, 1996), and I made sure Clinton carried MN before casting my vote. I did it to make a point, and I didn’t like Clinton (Bill), anyway. I’ve voted straight Dem ever since. However, it was more because there was no way in hell I would vote for the Republicans rather than I was excited by anything the Democrats had to offer. Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the basic tenets of the Democratic Party. Helping the poor and needy; equality for all; social justice, etc. However, before PBO, I felt as if I was taken for granted within the party. Being an Asian American bi agnostic woman meant I was invisible in so many ways, and I never really felt a part of the party.
When Barack Obama announced his candidacy, I felt an excitement I’d never felt before. In addition, Hillary Clinton also announced she was running, and while I didn’t care much for her, I was excited to have a female candidate as well as a black one. I really didn’t know which way I would go in the primary, but Obama won me over by being inclusive without making a big deal of it. He mentioned Asians when he talked about ‘all Americans’–probably because he has a sister who’s half-Asian, and he talked about nonbelievers without making it sound like a crime (this might have been after he was elected). He also actually uttered the word ‘bisexual’, which made my jaw drop in amazement. No one ever acknowledged that bis existed, let alone said the actual word.
Fast-forward a decade and the shit-show that is currently America. I stepped back from politics in 2012, but I was still pretty involved in discussing it online. Now, however, I’ve scaled way back because it’s gotten too overwhelming. I love social media, and I’m a heavy user, but I can see some of the drawbacks, and one of them is that it’s too easy to become wrapped in a web of despair after scanning my TL on Twitter or my feed on FB. Because most of the people I follow on Twitter and are friends with on FB have similar interest to mine, the echo chamber can be intense. One downside to that is that it’s too easy to let my ideas run wild and unchecked. I’ve said this before, but something that is lighting Twitter/FB on fire can be barely a blip in the real world, and it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that things on social media are magnified to an unreasonable degree.
In addition, part of my mental health issues is that I repeat negative shit to myself ad nauseam. It’s better now than it used to be, but I still have a low level of depression running through me at all times. Feelings of not being worth anything, of being a burden, of it’d be better if I weren’t here. I can recognize they’re exterior to me, but sometimes, they still feel so real. Social media is like this. It takes one thing and beats me over the head with it until I want to scream. It’s part of the beast, really, when you’re in a group with people with similar passions. Since I follow a lot of politically-obsessed people, it makes sense that they would post quite a bit about politics. However, I don’t need a steady TL of people tweeting about the latest asshole thing this president did/tweeted/said, and that’s what it seems to be a majority of the time.
I know he’s the president. I know it’s important to know what he’s doing and saying. However, I don’t think we need to know every idiotic idea that occupies his mind and that he vomits onto Twitter at three in the morning. It doesn’t pay to give trolls too much attention, and he is the biggest troll on Twitter (and in real life). I know we can’t completely ignore him (unfortunately), but can we at least minimize the extraneous shit we hear about him? In addition, could the media please just flat-out say he’s lying? Or, if not lying, at least explicitly make it clear that there is no basis for whatever bile he’s currently regurgitating? For example, if he says that the FBI are conspiring against him, the headline shouldn’t be, “President says the FBI are conspiring against him”. Even if there’s a clarification in the third paragraph that there’s no evidence to support his claim, most people won’t read past the headline. What should it be instead? If it were up to me, the headline would be something like, “President claims with no support that the FBI are conspiring against him”.
Look. I know the media is in it for the clicks. They’re going to give the clickbait headline because that’s what sells. I get it. However, I also believe that most reporters actually want to report the news and not just get the clicks, and I believe most of them would not be against a factually-accurate headline. Unfortunately, it’s not usually up to them, and the uppers in any corporation have a vested interest in keeping the status quo. It’s infuriating, though, to read all these articles who dutifully repeat what this president says as if they’re merely his scribes and not actual journalists.
I think it’s partly because of the power of low expectations. We all know this president is a deeply incurious, ignorant, narcissistic, angry, thin-skinned, stupid man. We don’t expect any better from him by this point, and he’s being graded on a very low curve. If he manages to make it through a meeting without making a total ass of himself or talk to a reporter without responding angrily, then he’s being presidential.
I’ve cut out two days of social media (Wednesday and Saturday), and I’m seriously considering adding Monday to the mix. Seeing several tweets about the same thing over and over and over again (or postings on FB) is like the negative voice in my head repeating how worthless I am. It doesn’t make me feel better about life, and it isn’t doing anything tangible to solve the actual problem. When the towers fell in 2001, I was living in the East Bay. My housemates had the TV on after the first one fell, and we watched the second one get hit. The media played it over and over and over and over, and we were all glued to the screen. After an hour, I forced myself to walk away because it was having a really negative effect on me. Instead of being horrified, I was numb, depressed, and I felt hopeless.
It’s the same with social media. Take, for instance, the crisis of the HSS losing 1,500 migrant children. I’ve only read the basics because it makes me speechless with rage whenever I see anything about it. It’s important that I know what’s happening, yes, but there’s a point of diminishing returns. And, seeing it over and over again only makes me feel more hopeless that anything can be done about it. I’m sure it has something to do with my PTSD, but it also has to do with not wallowing in the despair.
Yes, there are many horrible things happening in the world (and, let’s be real. There always has been. It’s just much easier to hear about it now), but there’s only so much I can do about it. My job is to find a way to stay current on what’s happening without allowing it to drown me. I don’t know how to do that, but I’m hoping to find a way soon.