Tuesday, July 21, 2015

On Feeling Less of the Feels

If my social media feeds are any measure, I have a tendency to connect with sensitive people.  Earnest, intense souls, who feel the injustices and hurts of this world very deeply.  This is true both of those human beings I've befriended in meatspace and those I've encountered only online, and I honestly wouldn't have it any other way.  I like souls who are both compassionate and passionate.

And this would be fine, were it not for the peculiar force-magnifier effect of social media immersion.

What's been happening, more and more lately, is that all of my friends are sharing all of the inputs of all of the new media that has risen up to draw their compassionate passions in.

Taken individually, it might be bearable.  But in its concentrated form, voice after voice after voice, filled with rage/anguish/ woe every moment, it's just too [gosh-danged] much.

Taken together, it's an endless wild, manipulative, hyper-emotional yarp, and mostly what I feel towards it is overwhelmed.  It's the difference between sharing a couple of bottles of a nice hoppy IPA with a friend and being crowd-shamed into chugging two Solo cups full of Everclear.

I have begun editing my social media awareness, blocking and delimiting.  A significant proportion of what I was served up daily had started to feel, honestly, like the intrusive thoughts of some psychotic meta-mind, a raging dissonant paranoiac being that obsessed and ruminated over every perceived offense and anguished over every horror, and was trying to stir me with its alien feelings.

I am not deleting/unfollowing/detaching from human beings, though.  What I do appreciate, and what does move me?  The real life that I encounter because you share it with me.  Here's the child I love, you say, and you show me.  That has meaning.  I am feeling terrible, you say, and I feel that with you.  Show me beauty.  Show me genuine personal sorrow.  Then, I feel it, because I know you.  Meaning, you're not this peculiar abstraction.  You're an individual.  You matter to me.

But the links through to the left and right wing umbrage-machines, the aggregators of outrage?  Those are too much, too much, and the emotional bandwidth they demand is too intense.  That data is still getting through, but filtered down to a manageable volume.

"If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention," goes the countering cry of the net activist, and perhaps there is some truth to that.  But if I am outraged at everything, every day, without exception or variance, then I am simply insane.  And I cannot really claim to be paying attention if I'm always upset, not really.

Because there's always something wrong.  I mean, really, there is and there will be.  Someone is always going to have done something terrible.  An injustice will always have been inflicted on the oppressed.  Someone somewhere will have said something stupid or provocative, or gotten into something with someone.

That will always be true, because there are three hundred and twenty million people in this country, seven point five billion on the planet.  There will always be an anecdote that stirs us, always and inevitably.  And if I give myself to the outrage machines, the aggregators of horror, I will either lose my ability to care or come apart.

We do not have to feel all of the possible feels.  We really don't.