We have a hard time letting go of things, even when we know we ought to. Perhaps the reasons are not quite settled yet, from ideas into solid thoughts, but there is that nagging that we ought to let go.
Two recent happenings made me reflect much deeper on this.
The first thing was our recent trip to Tweedsmuir Park. If you read the previous post, you can learn more about our backcountry adventure. It was beautiful and fulfilling in more than one way, as you can imagine. Most of all, I loved being disconnected from the world of news and updates. I miss that. Not because I do not care, but because I am highly empathic and it’s stressful to be a witness but without being able to do much to help. (Once back, I found myself getting into the fray almost automatically, perusing news or listening to them, because as before, it seems that keeping up can help. A weird sense of civic duty, but I’d argue it’s misplaced.)
Another thing that happened was that a week after our trip, I drove with my youngest to Vancouver for a concert he attended. There was crazy big city traffic, wildfire smoke and too many people in one place, especially after the experience of solitude in the backcountry. That’s a side note. The big thing that happened was that on the way back we were diverted to a different route than our usual due to the massive fire that was roaring near Hope. It took 11.5 hours to get home (it’s a four-hour drive usually) and we drove through thick smoke, while taking wide-eyed looks at yet another mountain side on fire.
The day after, Twitter was awash in dramatic photos of wildfires, as there were and still are quite a few burning in British Columbia and also in the States. This is not new. It’s tragic, but the photos are the same as in other years. Heartbreaking. And the stories of people having to leave their homes with only a mere bundle of things and memories…beyond heartbreaking.
There was also the visual juxtaposition that got quite a bit of traction: pipeline heavy equipment being rushed out of the wildfire’s way. ‘Mother Nature sending a message’ kind of thing. Two tweets down, up popped ads for the new whatever car model (we really do not need the yearly model on anything) and then more consumerism-driven and consumerism-driving material – more shiny stuff and more ‘let us make life easy for you’ kind of stuff which we should not fall for.
The flooding tragedy unfolding in Pakistan is impossible to describe in words. Or the famine in Yemen, or Somalia. So many tragic happenings in our own (country/region) backyards. Stories like these leave us empty, and also feeling guilty and wanting to help, but also genuinely wishing to get away from the heaviness of it all (I am very aware of the privilege of being able to do so.) But what’s outrageous is the exact same pattern as above: consumeristic ads are peppered ever so insistently and inconsiderately among stories that could not be more tragic. Famine stories and Oreo cookies ads, wildfires and flooding and new cars and other modern day expensive and environmentally-costly shiny stuff.
It’s sickening. If the fear of missing out on relevant stories and news made me stick to a reserved but regular checking of my Twitter feed, the things mentioned above make me feel sick enough to not want to do it anymore.
I have access to enough information that I would also find on Twitter, and likely more wisely used time to read and reflect on it and process it in any way I see suitable – via my writing or through talking to people. I have deactivated Facebook and the times I resurfaced was to see photos of loved ones who had extended such invitations. But the same problem of maddening juxtapositions reared its ugly head again and again.
Sure, life is a mix of beautiful and ugly, of good and evil and so forth. But do we need to fabricate more of that and most of all, at such levels that we see on various social media platforms? Aside form attention stealing and all that, which is mighty important, I struggle with this issue which could be interpreted as ‘who cares, life goes on and for some it’s adventurous and amazing no matter the burden to society and the environment…’.
That’s as close to a breaking point as can be.
Having shut down most of these outlets, I am on a 10-minute timer for Instagram which is shared between my personal and business account. The 10-minute allowance means that I am preparing any posts in advance and posting them in mere seconds. It’s a thoughtful deliberate act, and the reward is the rest of the time which I use for catching up on the accounts that I find valuable. I am fully aware that try as I may, the addicting powers of a perpetually refreshing feed are beyond what I can control, so I have for now made a truce.
Time can be mine to do as I please, including deep work which I love and thrive on. But the layer of stress due to matters that go unresolved (they are in all fairness impossibly big and complicated) while also being white-washed via incessant consumeristic ads…that’s just never conducive to anything good.
Causes can be helped in other ways than posting retweets, or by feeding the outrage machine (it’s what gets attention, right?) will not solve the problem. Our scale of consumption is too big, even when it comes to sustainable products, and our level of compassion for what this scale means to underdeveloped countries and the environment is decreasing by the day. Part is self-preservation, which is instinctual, and part is that we have become desensitized as the ads and stories roll together in one colourful, fast-moving visual and auditory package that reaches way past these two senses into the brain.
I want to be able to see the beauty of the world, its sadness and heartbreak too, and I want to separate ease-of-being from the sobering stories. I thing it’s to myself, to you, and to all around us who want to live rather than be herded through life.
OK, I can leave it here and pick it up soon.
It’s a lot to throw at you, and it’s intensely thought-provoking, I know, but there it is anyway. If you feel inclined to respond with your related experiences, please do. We need as many spaces for deep conversations as we can get, and this may just be one of them.