Stop Reading Doom and Gloom Stories
Hi, friends. It’s me again (back on my bullshit, as some might say). Look, I’m going to level with you. If that title seems ironic coming from me or you anticipate this being too depressing a read, you can back away now. No shame. No shade. You just want a sweet distraction? Throw a rock and hit literally any other door in the hallway of the internet. Sometimes, you really don’t need to read the resident pessimists, myself included.
If you’re still reading, let’s take a minute.
Breathe deeply from your belly and blow out through your nose. Stretch out your back and neck from wherever you’re hunched over reading this.
Give yourself a minute just to feel the small bits of hope in your chest. Maybe the weather’s nice. Maybe you had great sex this past week. Maybe a family member or friend you love is in your general vicinity-wondering why you’re sat staring at your phone.
You and I, lovely reader, deserve to feel a little ounce of joy and hope without having people immediately chime in about the darkness we’re ignoring (where?) and not thinking about (again, where?) and “we’ve been through this before” (we have and haven’t).
You don’t know what you’re doing. You’re standing in your kitchen trying to remember what you came in there for or you’re lounging on your couch with no interest in any of what’s on the 2–3 screens you’ve got going or you’re in bed trying to remember what normal conversation among friends feels like without a restless undercurrent.
The shiny veneer of your sourdough starters, your home improvement projects, or your totally-going-to-happen-now exercise routine has dulled and faded. You most likely have a headache, stomachache, or back pain that you can’t determine the exact cause of or why it has decided to reside in your body in this unholiest of decades. You’ve got aches and regrets rattling around your mind and chest that keep getting swept over by steadily disappearing distractions or the semi-permanent state of despondency that greets you every morning.
There’s a 7-year countdown to the literal end of the world, and there’s 70K people willing to tell you about it at Mach 10 because hyping fear can make you rich if you play it right.
When a woman who looks like me was murdered an hour and some change away from me, I was unsurprised amidst writing productivity tips and wellness boosters for companies who needed their employees to keep hustling. (Sidenote: Racial trauma cannot be “fixed” by taking a nap or going for a jog when people who look like you are murdered while doing those things.)
750K dead because the opioid crisis didn’t take a break this year and unfortunately ramped up. California and Oregon won’t get a chance to secede since the West Coast has been burning to ash under a red sky, on and off, for the past few years. Texas and Florida might be seceding…… if they don’t wipe out their populations with ignorance and ill-founded patriotism first.
There were millions unemployed and without insurance during a pandemic, and we’ve responded by blocking relief for everyone because it’s “too socialist”. There was 200K dead in 6 months of 2020, and we blew past more than double that by 2021. If we’re all going to either burn, suffocate, or drown, let’s just get it over with.
That up there’s the modern equivalent of early 2000’s online activists constantly telling us to be offended, damnit. It wasn’t helpful then, and it’s sure not helpful now. You cannot solve the problem of a world on fire with a well-intentioned can of gasoline. Life wasn’t meant to be endured, and lately, that’s what most of us have done.
With a ragtag bag of tools, stitched-together coping resources, and a healthy dose of “it is what it is.”
I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I’m tired.
The other day, I published a piece about the futility of activism in the long-term. (Most commenters tremendously disagreed so you’re not missing much.) Here’s the thing, babes. Activism and the pushback works in the short-term. It does change things-just not as much as we glamorize it, especially protesting. Not in the ways we would want it to. I’d love it if the success of the Civil Rights Movement meant that Breonna Taylor was still a name I didn’t know, but that’s not the way humanity works.
We do have quiet acts: a bowl of soup, petitions signed, money given, policies written, tough conversations.
Done without fanfare and not even commemorated with a tiny black square. We recognize good trouble doesn’t have to be loud to be heard. To be felt.
Look. I don’t want to write of death. I’ve worn out my records on that particular topic (for now).
I want to write poetry, of love, heartbreak, clawing your way back to yourself, ditching the childish while keeping the childlike, and a myriad other life-affirming things.
I also want to write of socio-political problems without being told I’m stupid or should die. (Internet commenters are weird, peeps. I would ask if they’re good, fam, but people telling someone to kill themselves are decidedly not.)
Pointing out the good in life is not automatically “toxic positivity”. Ignoring the good in the humans around us leads to……whatever this mess is. Take a minute for love.
In the same vein, though, pointing out the bad in life is not automatically “doom and gloom”. Ignoring the reality of how far we have to go leads to……..whatever this mess is. Take a minute for honesty.
The problem with this dualistic binary between toxic positivity and doom/gloom is that humans need both the depressingly realistic pieces and the joyful, life-giving ones. We need both the truth-tellers and the love-spreaders, and the stories that somehow set up camp in both.
You need to know just enough information to catalyze you, and this is key, not a drop more or less.
More than you need? You’ll drop into either apathy or fear-mongering.
Less than you need? You’ll end up turning into an oblivious Pollyanna.
Either way, you’ll turn up a dick.
For me? Knowing just enough to motivate me into action looks like reading 5 newspapers (2 global, 3 US-based), deactivating/deleting FM and Instagram for a year and some change, being a bit player in creating public safety policies, and getting a life.
For you, it might mean you decide to watch less news, stop reading specific authors, or deactivate your social media for a minute.
Or it might mean you pick up a newspaper, start searching out authors who vividly describe problems, creating solutions to specific problems, or spreading the word about an issue near and dear to your heart.
Some of us need to know the soul-shattering statistics and keep up with the various global movements. Others of us need to do anything but that at the moment.
Only you know what you require to be a reasonably-informed, well-adjusted human. There’s no specific right formula for how much depressing news and jolts of happiness a person needs.
You gotta measure that shit out as you go, my friend.