Stay Sane and Tune Everything Out

Protect Your Empathy


Scrape 'em off, Claire. If you want to save someone, save yourself.

If you can laugh at that line (Scrooged, Bill Murray, 1988, classic), then the speaker is probably not you, and that's good. It's certainly not me. I have empathy, a lot of it, and it's usually good for me. When presented with a moral or ethical challenge, I'd say 90% to 92% of the time, I come down on the right side of things. I'll even take the time to think through some of the murkier stuff, which, in this age of the death spiral of nuance, is not always an easy or quick thing to do.

But I've had to learn to be colder, and by colder I don't mean colder to a fellow human being when confronted with said moral/ethical opportunities, but rather colder to humanity in general as they perpetually scream misinformation at one another.

You can take a look at almost any newsworthy issue these days and I guarantee you there will be two sides to it. How can I make that guarantee, which I assure you is iron-clad? Because there are two sides to everything. There always has been, and there always will be.

The aforementioned death spiral of nuance is causally tied to to the rise of unchecked outrage, and more than coincidentally follows the timeline of making a bunch of money by getting people all worked up. You know this is true, I know this is true, but we still fall for it almost every single time.

I mean, we can all agree that Internet news article comment sections are the scourge of humanity, yet almost every single professional news gathering site still employs them and rarely policies them.

What does that tell you?

A little over a year ago, I put a ban on news -- and this includes television, radio, print, and web. I also instituted a three-strikes-policy for social connections that repeatedly redistribute misinformation or propaganda, for any side of any issue.

Despite what you might think at first blush, I don't do this protect my own sensibilities. I've got a mind that can change, pretty readily, and that's one of the things that has helped me get as far as I've gotten in this life. I can respect people I despise, let alone people I don't agree with. If I don't like your politics, that's fine, as long as I don't have to vote for you.

And yeah, I know what that implies for this November.

No, the bans and the banishments are there to protect my ability to form my own opinion, and not blindly jump a train that isn't fueled by fact. So I'll listen to almost any argument, and I can definitely be swayed, but the moment you start throwing bullbleep at me, I don't want to know you.

And dude, I'll give you a lot of room. You can ask me what I think about that bullbleep, you can tell me where you heard it and why you think it might be true. But if you start judging me or anyone else based on it, and I know enough to call you on it, you're called. And by called, I mean ignored, because I don't have the time or the energy to fight ignorance.

I guess I'm kind of mostly talking to journalists there, because as someone who has tacitly studied the demise of journalism, especially over the last half-dozen years, I find too many of today's practitioners to be lacking. But I'm talking socially here too.

So why? Why have I gotten so strict on this stance? Kind of hard-edge when I don't get hard-edged about much of anything?

Because negativity has become a virus. It permeates every outlet and too many of the interactions we have. It affects our moods, our relationships, and our ability to communicate and achieve. And help.

Totally serious here. Take a step out of the misinformation bubble and you'll see it almost immediately.

I firmly believe that the vast majority of us, regardless of our race, religion, politics, and where we come down on which celebrity couple we follow, we all believe in nuance, in two sides to every story, in the ability to ask before we judge. And we're tired of the noise.

Well, the noisemakers are definitely winning.

So as in any unwinnable situation, I've taken myself out of the game. I won't be a part of it. Again, reaching back into my open-minded sack of defense mechanisms, I don't lash out, I walk out. I turn it off, I spend my time on those hundred other things where I can affect the outcome for the better.

So that's why I tune it all out. It's not messenger. It's not the cause. I'm not offended by it, I'm not afraid of it. I just want the opportunity to make up my own mind.