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.
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.
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.
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.