I have been an emotional roller coaster this week. I can’t remember a time when I have been so impacted emotionally by things happening outside of my home, and I’m generally a pretty passionate person so that is saying something. I was compulsively checking Twitter over the weekend to see what new executive orders President Trump was signing, I was getting riled up by opinions on Facebook, and having some difficult conversations with friends and family. I knew I had to turn things around or else I was going to wind up being worthless for myself, my family, and any of these issues I’m supposedly so exasperated about.
So I did a few things that have helped:
- I unfollowed everyone on Facebook (here’s how). I had already deleted Facebook from my phone, but I found myself still seeing comments and updates when I would log in to see a comment on a blog post or something. So now my Facebook is just made up of groups and pages that I like, and it is much more boring than it was. I read an Alan Jacobs’ post this week, and I have to agree with him: “I have come to believe that it is impossible for anyone who is regularly on social media to have a balanced and accurate understanding of what is happening in the world. To follow a minute-by-minute cycle of news is to be constantly threatened by illusion.” Even though I had deleted Facebook, I was still checking Twitter in the name of “being informed.” I’m not going to argue that Twitter doesn’t have real world benefits, but I’m just not capable of using it wisely at this point. I’m not saying that you should do this; I’m just saying that it isn’t working for me right now. I need, as this writer describes, “slower news.” I need to chill out, read good journalism (and all of it, not just the headlines), and then act when necessary.
- I listened to some Pantsuit Politics. As far as I’m concerned, this podcast that features two women hosts, one from the Right and one from the Left, should be required listening for these times. They approach issues with respect and nuance, even when, especially when, they disagree. Their inauguration episode was stellar if you’re only going to listen to one. How much I rave about this show is a testament to how rare it is these days to see or hear two people who disagree talk so respectfully and intelligently about difficult issues and policies. I need to learn from them. Left, Right, and Center is another helpful listen.
- For upcoming confirmation hearings, I put my senators’ direct lines in my phone, so it is super easy to call them and give their office my two cents on issues (and especially, right now, appointments) that are important to me. I added my representative’s local and DC phones numbers to my phone, as well. Find your Congress people here. Next on my list is learning more about how my local government operates and what issues are forthcoming on the city council’s agenda.
- I made a list in order of the issues and values most important to me, so that it is easier to stay on track in terms of what I will and will not expend emotional energy on.
- I’m getting out of my echo chamber. Part of that is getting off of Facebook and Twitter where I pick and choose who I follow. Part of it is cleaning up my Feedly (which is my main source of news) to include more well-rounded sources of journalism. Part of it is resubscribing to the print editions of The American Conservative and The Atlantic (if you want good journalism, you have to support it). I have been convicted over the past few days that it is easier to be mad and riled up than it is to be nuanced and practice empathy. In the inauguration episode, Beth from Pantsuit Politics said she wants to be more concerned with being forward than being right. We should expect that out of our politicians, but we aren’t getting it. So we have to lead from the ground-up. That looks like listening to the other side, and trying to understand where they are coming from instead of growing self-righteous (pot calling the kettle black here). Our only chance is to move forward together, and it has to begin with us – all of us.
I know this space has traditionally been about food and gardening and such, but part of living seasonally, if you ask me, is speaking to what is going on in the world around us. (Also, as Wendell says, “eating is an agricultural act,” and Pollan goes further to connect the dots that eating is political too.)
In the interest of my intent to exit my own echo chamber, I’m starting a weekly-ish email newsletter of the highlights of my political reading from around the interwebs. My goal in the newsletter and my own reading is to get out of my comfort zone and listen to viewpoints that I may not typically, as well as link to good journalism whatever the viewpoint. Sign up here if you’re interested in #operationexitourechochambers and send your suggestions to me at sara at sarabytheseason dot com.
I have one more thing that has helped: I created a #firedup playlist on Spotify and have been dancing and singing to it all week with my family in the kitchen!