Negativity Is A Virus We should Protect Ourselves Against

Memorial Day week of 2018, my wife and I went on vacation to Washington D.C. D.C is a place that I had always wanted to see, ever since listening to the stories my mother told me as a child of her youth in the city. We took an overnight train from Savannah, GA., to D.C. and arrived late in the afternoon on that Saturday before Memorial Day. As we walked through Union Station, D.C., it felt like I was in a dream. From Union Station, we walked to our hotel room which was a block from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Our walk took us directly across the Capitol Building grounds, exposing the view straight down the National Mall displaying the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial in the distance. We got to our room, threw our bags down, and shot straight out to the Mall to take in the sights early that evening. It was just flat-out amazing to me. For the next four days, we walked all over the Mall. On Memorial Day, we walked from Arlington National Cemetery to The Library of Congress. The entire length of The Mall. On that Memorial Day, I laid a rose on JFK’s grave. I Listened to taps in Arlington National Cemetery while watching artillery guns shoot a 21-gun salute to our nation’s fallen. Saw the Presidential motorcade and capped the day off being invited into the Library of Congress main reading chamber, which was only open to the public two days of that year.

Arlington National Cemetery
The Capitol Building
Library of Congress Main Reading Room

I Did It All Completely Unplugged

I spent this entire vacation unplugged. My cellphone stayed cut off in my backpack the whole time. I had no camera. I had a Facebook account at the time. I never checked it while there and never posted anything while there. My wife took all the photos on her phone. This journey was akin to a spiritual pilgrimage to me, and I wanted to take it all in undisturbed and undistracted. After our return to Georgia, I reluctantly powered my phone back up. But for the following eight months or so, I never got back on Facebook. There was just something nice about not looking at it. Finally, for one reason or another, I wound up logging into my account one day, and right off the rip, all I saw was negativity. It was nasty political posts, and just woe is me, people. I opened my settings, found where to delete the account, and deleted it. I’ve been off Facebook ever since.

Post-Deletion

After removing that looming cloud of doom from my life, I began to consume entirely too much cable news. My watching habits weren’t politically driven either. I watched all the cable news shows on every cable news network. I began watching them in the evening like many people may watch evening sit-coms and network programming. As I watched the evening coverage on January 6th, 2021, the Capital riots, I could feel the rage consuming me. Flipping station to station, all I see are images of these reprehensible, immoral, and politically corrupt people storming a building that I see as sacred. I decided this is enough; these cable news networks love this; this is money to them. All they want is to pander to negativity and enrage the masses; that was it. I turned away from cable news as I had from Facebook due to so much negativity. Now I only consume from my local news and the network evening news. Where I was consuming cable news on the television, I’ve replaced that time with, The Andy Griffith Show, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy. Life is so much more pleasant now.

The Andy Griffith Show
Wheel of Fortune
Jeopardy

Negativity Is A Virus

I’ve come to realize some things after detoxifying from these two mediums of information. Negativity gets inside you and festers like a virus. If all you are putting in is negative information, you begin to view the world through a negative lens. Your interactions with people become less appreciated. You begin to view people cynically. Your outlook on life becomes terrible. Every little thing bothers you, and you wind up angry about things that aren’t that important. It’s anger that has been programmed into you by a media company. It’s not even your anger.

How Can We Protect Against This Virus?

I want to say, first off, it’s okay to be angry about something. Anger is a natural human emotion. But be angry when someone has wronged you, not when Sean Hannity or Don Lemon have sensationalized some story for ratings—money. Don’t get mad because some Russian hacker has posted the most unbelievable political story in the world on Facebook, which in turn someone may have tweeted. That’s letting someone else or some other entity control your emotions. No one likes to lose control of anything in their life. Now that’s something to be angry about; there are people out there who expect you to believe things and be mad about them mindlessly. Negativity is time-consuming; it’s tiring. It’s like a job. It consumes you. Life is so much better to look at through an optimistic lens; maybe if we all tried harder to filter out so much harmful content consumption making the world a better place for all wouldn’t be such a daunting task.

My Every Day Walk

            Every day at 4:30, I go for a walk. It’s a decompression time for me. I try to let loose of the day. My walk is just under 2-miles. I walk the same route every day. As I walk, I see mostly the same people driving down the street. Many are winding their day down, just leaving work, or picking the kids up from school. Carrying out the mundane tasks of life. Today I took notice of the peoples’ faces as they drove by me. Many, so many, looked devoid of life. Like they are just over this journey. That’s a sad thing.

Photo courtesy of Justin Horrocks

            I’ll be the first to admit it this life sucks half of the time. It’ll beat you down and strangle the life out of you if you let it. There is so much negativity on the TV and radio. Then you have social media, and you find out your friend is getting divorced because their spouse has been unfaithful, and you’re like, “what!?” I thought they had it together. Then there’s a spot in the back of your mind that feels a little better cause you realize it’s not only you that sucks at this. It’s not right to feel that, but you do feel better.

            You know, I gave up my smartphone a few years ago and went back to a flip phone to be able to disconnect from that bombardment of information all the time. It became a burden with notifications, emails, and texts constantly. I feel like we, as humans, aren’t wired to process that much information constantly. It makes you depressed and filled with anxiety. I’m convinced that over-stimulation played a role in seeing so many lifeless faces driving down the street today.            

So, if you get a chance, go out and take a walk and enjoy the spring air. Leave the phone at the house and slip away from the onslaught of information assaulting your face. And while you’re on that walk, pick out those lifeless faces riding down the street, lend them a smile as they ride by. You may awaken a little bit of hope in their hopeless world.