Hold on. Get off here for a minute and take a glance at your Twitter or Facebook feed, and you’ll probably see someone saying, “I’m so tired”. There is so much bad news that it feels like we’re running out of emotions. For the past several months, I have experienced a crippling psychic exhaustion. “I’m on the edge”, I tell my friends, when they send me worried texts about the day’s events, or ask me how I’m holding up. Today, social media, and traditional media, to some extent, play a major role in steering our eyeballs, and attention, towards emotionally charged topics—politics, religion, and social issues to name a few.
I hold a strong belief system and attitude, which has compelled me to engage more fervently on various social platforms. Because it’s so easy to go online and say whatever comes to mind– without much thought– I often used to find myself engulfed in heated arguments that went beyond healthy and respectful debate. Before I knew it, the arguments turned into a battle of egos. I used to take things too seriously and spent hours upon hours trying to validate my views … and in the midst of this predicament I forgot to ask myself the most important question- What’s the point?
I used to be the biggest social media fanatic for as long as I can remember. If there was a celebrity scandal, I had to tweet about it, if someone posted about their political or societal ideology, I had to disparage them. This continued till the day I realised that I was feeling hopelessly enraged. Being shocked and angry started feeling normal and that’s when I knew that I had to take a break and rethink my social media patterns. During this time away from my phone and the internet, I asked myself the following questions- Does my opinion matter? How does it impact my life? The more you wrestle with pigs, the dirtier the mud makes you, and the happier this makes the pigs. Why should you care about pigs’ happiness? When I looked at the countless opinions, I have formed about countless issues, I realized that most of the opinions I took so seriously are trivial and inconsequential. Will my life be better, my relationships stronger, or my actions more effective, if I commented on any (or every) trending, or controversial topic? I realized, in most cases, that opinions are a distraction and a waste of time and energy that can be put to better use.
Gradually, I found peace within and developed deeper focus. I realized that the world will do just fine without my opinions. This made me feel invisible. But strangely, it made me feel liberated too. I want to make this clear though, that not having an opinion is not an invitation to become apathetic. Apathy means “I don’t care because I can’t do anything about it”.
It’s rooted in helplessness. Not having an opinion is about the awareness of what’s important and what we can actually do. I’ll never be in the anti-social media camp — I think that oversimplifies it – but, it is becoming increasingly evident that clickbait news and headlines designed to provoke outrage are conditioning us to enact a series of predetermined reactions. Reactions which function more as markers of our political inclinations and self-perceived progressiveness than genuine upset.
When appropriately channelled and articulated, anger can be a force for positive social change. C. Daryl Cameron, research associate at the Rock Ethics Institute, suggests that “outrage can get you to care, can get you motivated to sign petitions, can get you to volunteer, things which have outcomes that are much longer-term than signalling.” But, when anger is treated as an end rather than a means to an end, that endgame can be lost.
-Written by: Trusha Mishra