I just unfollowed about 40 people on Twitter. These were people to whom I don’t have a personal connection, but rather I’ve been following them for news from their parts of the world, and that news has been predominantly bad. I saved almost all of them to a private list with the intent of adding them back into my feed when I’m ready, but right now I need a break.
Much of this is personal. I’m having a hard time emotionally right now for reasons I only half understand, and getting a firehose of bad news from places I care about threatens to push me across the line from merely upset to despairing. I need to take better care of myself, and I’m hoping it won’t be too long before I have things back under control and can take my head out of the sand. But there’s a bigger picture too.
The two things I really appreciate about Twitter are the ability to have ad hoc conversations with friends who aren’t nearby, and the ability to get unfiltered news from real humans in places I’d otherwise know far too little about. Because of these I’m not making the unfollow anywhere near complete—there are plenty of purveyors of bad news I’m still following because I have some personal connection—but I am more conscious than ever of the distorting effect that this firehose can have. Since wars in the Middle East are at the front of my mind, this chart is particularly relevant:
It’s from an article reminding readers that there are quite a few positive trends in the world. As much as I worry about environmental destruction and the closure of public space for dissent, and as impatient as I am to see many ongoing wrongs righted, the average human alive today may well be better off than at any time in history. And yet… here are the top recommended stories from the sidebar of that same article:
And a large proportion of my twitter stream—particularly the stuff I read first in the day because it’s from 8-10 time zones ahead of me—is about death, hatred and entrenchment in Syria, Israel, Palestine and the Sahel. I still believe that it’s important to confront the world as it is, and not hide from this stuff, but it is so easy to lose all sense of proportion and that’s what I find myself doing at the moment. I need to figure out how to balance these things; how to have the benefit of being able to be connected with many more humans in many more places than ever before, without the severe loss of perspective it can engender.
Meanwhile, I’m retreating a little to regroup.