Yesterday, an acquaintance of mine wrote this blog post which really resonated with me. The post discusses his relationship with politics and political news and is well worth the short read. For me, my relationship with politics has become increasingly painful. What used to be an exciting hobby (or even a career passion) has become a source of pain and discomfort.
The more rational I get about politics the more I realize it is a waste of my time, particularly when it comes to sharing political news. Not only is it a waste of my time, it is something that is actively making my life worse. It sucks up my time, makes me angry, and reinforces an “us vs them” tribe mentality. Make no mistake, politics is a drug (especially in the form of Facebook). I know that not all drugs are equal, and some can be incredibly beneficial. My own use of MDMA makes me open to experimentation and I recognize the benefits.
The problem forms when the drug starts to take over your life. When the need to argue with people (even though it won’t change anyone’s mind) or the desire to have the most updated news (even though it literally doesn’t matter) starts to interfere with your health, career, and life. News can actually have value if it leads to other positive change. If you find out about a natural disaster and donate blood or money, that is a wonderful use of news, but that doesn’t require hours of scrolling Facebook each day. This is something that Tim Ferris talks about in his book “4 Hour Work Week”, if news is important then you will find out about it, you don’t need to go searching. It is a waste of time to need minute-to-minute updates on the world, 99% of what you encounter will have no effect on your life and will be completely irrelevant in a matter of days or hours.
When I realize I’ve spent three hours on Facebook scrolling and sharing articles instead of meditating, writing, working out, going for a walk, having sex with my partner, reading, studying, sleeping, socializing with friends, or working, then I have a problem. When I feel the impulsive need to check certain websites the moment I wake up, or “just one more time” while lying in bed, then I have an addiction. When I have a regretful hangover at the end of the day when I realize I didn’t do the things I wanted to do or that I didn’t take care of my personal health, then I have a problem. Politics has stopped being a hobby and started becoming heroin*… and maybe worse, I’ve become a drug dealer to those I care about.
So, I think it is time to make another focused effort at weaning myself of the drug. I love Facebook for a lot of things, including getting news that is positive (we live in the safest, most awesome time in human history and science is doing some fucking awesome things) and communicating with friends, but it is terrible for true change in the world. Sharing an article about the homeless issues that effect LGBT individuals replaces volunteering at a shelter to help those individuals. Sharing an article about yoga replaces going to a yoga studio. Sharing an article with writing tips replaces actual writing. Facebook allows us to signal who we are without actually producing anything of value. Sharing a post is literally the least you can do to help change the world.
I know, despite my best efforts, I will probably back chasing that political dragon looking for a fix. But that’s okay, the effort matters and with effort, support from family and friends, and some tools (ie StayFocused app on Chrome) I can improve my life. Research on addiction shows that it isn’t as much about the drug as it is about the community, if I can build a community without politics then I can escape it’s clutches and focus my creative energy on something of actual value, something that actually matters. Hopefully, the community that I have will stay with me if I shake of politics completely, I would like to imagine our friendship is deeper than libertarianism.
*I actually kind of hate using heroin as the evil drug example. I know people who use heroin recreationally without any addiction, and I’m not really in a place to judge other’s drug of choice. Hell, their use of heroin is healthier than my use of politics and some of my food habits. But, it is the drug that most people are familiar with as having a really high level of addictiveness. Maybe I should have used nicotine instead…