I try not to check my Facebook feed.
I try not to look at the comments underneath someone's post about Clinton or Trump or whatever the internet has told us is the current issue to talk about. I try to avoid all of that.
But sometimes, I do it anyway.
When I do check it, my face sinks down into my hands in the same way my belief in the goodness of humanity sinks down to the depths, Titanic-style. I'm Leo in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic, hypothermia gripping my organs and my optimism with its icy fingers, and Facebook is Kate, lying on that spacious door and acting all surprised when I go blue and cold.
Yeah. It's that bad. I feel like Facebook brings out the worst in me.
For example, I have a friend who posts a lot of thought-provoking articles (read: argument-starters). Because I apparently enjoy punishing myself and because I'm so so dumb, I drop in on the comments of his posts from time to time. While I actually enjoy my friend's posts themselves, there's one guy who always comments on them, and he drives me nuts. Let's call this guy Jim.
Jim reasons like a child, comments like a child, argues like a child. I'd bet money that I could put his comments side-by-side with comments from one of my middle school students, and we wouldn't be able to tell who the adult is. Seriously. Half of his comments are just "haha" or "lol."
Jim rubs me the wrong way. Anytime he writes anything, he sets off my "justice alarm." Do you know what I mean? It's my own version and definition of justice, but it's been violated, and I think, "Somebody's gotta stop this guy!"
Then I think, "That somebody is me. This is my bat signal." I hit Reply on Jim's comment, and I start typing with great fury, with justice at my back, goodness under my wings. I will destroy Jim. I will use his own words against him as a torch of searing, undeniable truth: that he is a massive whiney baby man-child. And he's dumb as a brick. And probably smells like the crusty rim of the milk jug.
Fortunately, before I hit Send, an actual intelligent thought interrupts me:
This guy is not my problem to care about.
He's not my problem. It's not my job to teach this guy how to be a man. I'm not even friends with him—I know of him, I know his family, but Jim doesn't fall under my jurisdiction. That realization has stopped me every time I've attempted to act on my "justice alarm" with him. That realization is what I've started to apply on a larger scale, too.
Play along with me for a minute. I want you to reach out in front of you with your arms so they're parallel to the ground. Rotate them to your left, and then rotate them back to the right. Don't knock over your computer or hit the guy next to you on the train (unless you think he really deserves it).
That imaginary semi-circle you've created with your arms? That's how I'm keeping my sanity in this new age of social media and in this election season—instead of worrying about what's out of my reach, I'm going to worry about what's in my reach.
Jim's not my problem to solve.
Clinton and Trump? Not my problem to solve.
People I don't know? Not my problem to solve.
They're not within my reach. And not only are they not within my reach, there's so much that is within my reach, it's more than enough to keep me occupied every minute of the day.
I have almost two hundred students in my classroom to care about.
I have coworkers I see every day to care about.
I have a church community to care about.
I have friends—real-life, flesh-and-blood, "hey, I actually know you and what's going on in your life" friends—to care about.
I have family members to care about.
That's way more than enough for me to chew. I don't need to spend a single second of my life caring about Dummy McMoron and his childish communication techniques on Facebook. If that's the way he wants to carry himself, fine. Of everything I could care about in my life, he's probably number 8,592 on my priority list, and that's being generous.
I apply the same to politics, news, and social media in a general sense. I can spend my time becoming more and more frustrated and exasperated by what I read about and see, but honestly, it's like throwing little pebbles at the ocean. If I wait for the ocean to change, I'll be waiting for a long, long time.
I can throw pebbles at the ocean, or I can take care of the little puddle in front of me, the one right at my feet.
Ten minutes in an argument on social media is ten minutes I could have used in conversation with someone, ten minutes I could have used to give my students feedback, ten minutes I could have used on something meaningful within my reach. I bet there are plenty of people who spend well over ten minutes on the internet throwing pebbles at the ocean. I bet it would be pretty shocking to see an actual inventory of what we spend our time on. I bet it would be a little heartbreaking to realize what we could have spent that time on.
I've found the more time I spend consuming the "RIGHT NOW," "LOOK AT THIS," "NOW LOOK AT THIS" content of social media and the news, the more agitated, frustrated, and discontent I become.
The more time I spend with people I love, or creating something, or reading a book (a creation which, most often than not, is made over time with care, not overnight to address the right now), or removed from the insta-content of the internet, the more at peace I am. The more satisfied I am with life. The more in touch I am with what I was put on this earth to do.
It's the equivalent of the way you feel after you sit down and enjoy a home-cooked meal, versus the way you feel after you shove your mouth full of candy on the go because you don't have time to eat real food.
If I'm going to engage in politics, I'm going to do my research, I'm going to vote for all of the positions up for grabs, I'm going to have conversations with friends to work out how we feel and to understand each other a bit better.
If I'm going to confront a person, it's going to be someone I love because I have a relationship with them, I care about them, I know their ins and outs, I've been with them in the good times and I'll continue to be there with them through the bad times, and I know they would do all of that for me, too.
If I'm going to care about an issue, I'm going to log off social media, and I'm going to go care about that issue. I'm going to talk to a person, show up at a place, give my money, whatever it means to actually care about that issue.
If I have twenty extra minutes, texting or calling a friend and asking, "Hey. Tell me about life right now" is, to me, a way better investment than posting another "Let me make a point" post on social media and then arguing with people about it.
Full disclosure—I still jump into arguments on social media from time to time. I still allow myself to get frustrated and try to solve problems that aren't my problems to solve. I've learned over time, though, that I don't feel better after using my time that way. I feel like it was a huge waste.
I never regret a heart-to-heart with a friend. I never regret a one-on-one conversation with a student. I never regret thirty minutes spent reading or writing. I can't speak for anyone but me, but I'm way more satisfied with life when I worry about what's within arm's reach, what's right in front of me.
I'm tired of flinging endless pebbles at the ocean. I'd rather splash around in the puddles at my feet.