I’ve stopped following the news, and I have stopped engaging on my personal Facebook account. A simple reason has pushed me to do this. The outrage machine, at last, has exhausted me. But I have learned so much more in the silence of turning it off.
I can’t listen to any more stories about war, conflict, violence, political buffoonery, grievance seeking, or the collapse of the environment. I can’t indulge in anyone’s opinions on any of these matters, my own included. “Oh, that’s a cop out,” some will say, and with even a degree of validity, but I think one comes to a point in one’s life where one has to ask why one is doing something. What matters and what must come first? I can no longer leave consuming news media anywhere on that list and at the same time put my practice of kindness first.
“Well, if you don’t know about the details of the refugee crisis in Syria, how can you feel sufficient compassion for it?” some might object. But I don’t think one needs the details of the suffering of other lives, human or other, to feel compassion towards them, especially when knowledge of those details comes with so much with so much toxic manipulation of opinion.
In all frankness, few people who read about these issues do so in the service of open compassion. Rather, the news serves as a pretext for whipping up outrage, spiraling sharing and opinionating around each crumb of information, regardless of its truth. In order to keep us reading, sharing, and commenting, we are subjected to a deluge of reasons to get angrier at “them” for doing or not doing something, at “him” or “her” for saying or not saying something, at “you” for sharing or commenting in a certain way.
And the result of stopping? From inner peace grows the strength to act. Every moment, every quantum of emotional energy that I’ve freed by unhooking from the outrage machine has come back to me multi-fold, with more productivity, greater impact, and deeper kindness.
I have found I can redirect my attention with the force of intention, not dispersed into an outrage that serves no one well and that improves nothing meaningfully. In other words, I have taken back control of that attention, away from the outrage machine that uses my emotions and beliefs to disseminate its products and to bring me back to the trough again and again. I find my time better spent in making a better world than in reading about a worse world.
And, for reasons I still wish to explore but which I still know hold true, I firmly believe that I have not surrendered to ignorance. Instead, I have simply moved along, to running my own machine of kindness and love, to building up steam towards knowing and doing what matters.
Confession: It took me months to build up the courage to form and then act on this principle. It seems to fly in the face of all of the values of good citizenship and informed intellectualism that I have absorbed over the years. So much so, that I have felt reluctant even to admit what I have done or face the stigma of “not knowing what’s going on.” But after a few weeks of doing it, in the face of such freedom, I can’t refuse the call to share what I am doing and why.