So, I’m on a ‘News Diet’. Actually, it’s not a diet. It’s a ‘lifestyle’, to quote a comedic routine. But that hardly explains the title of this post, now does it? How does one explain the need to distance oneself from the onslaught until one understands the actual problem. For you see, it’s not the news that is the issue. It’s probably you.

Humanity has apparently divided itself into two major factions, each pointing at the other and saying “Baaaaa, you’re sheep!”. Sheep that blindly follow dogma and doctrine. And then each pointing at themselves and proudly exclaiming how they’re not. They use examples like how the other side abuses social media to control and swell the ranks of the incorrect, but how ‘Our Side’ doesn’t. In fact, we say that online platforms have no control over us. That we are critical thinkers and Facebook and its ilk could never dictate how we live our lives.

And yet, everything about that is completely wrong.

We make excuses why we believe that we are right. Not so much about our choice of sides, but in how we deal with the communication of our beliefs. Let me give you some real world examples. Take …. oh let’s call him Steve. Steve is a member of the Left Tribe. He firmly believes that the leaders of the Right are using social media to herd its horde into a froth, all in the name of the cause. He believes that social media has zero control over him and that his word views are his own. And he may be right about the second half of that sentence, but certainly not the first.

Steve is indeed controlled by social media. His world is his phone. He spends every moment he can inside of that world. Commenting on what he sees as misinformation. Trying to lead the other side into his light. Joining forces with others who see themselves as Holy Avengers. But … and this is the important part … he is never controlled by the media that is controlling those he wants to set free.

And again, everything about that is completely wrong.

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Steve is indeed controlled. In his belief that he alone can bring forth calm from chaos and thus shine a spotlight on evil leaders of the opposition, he is in a deeper prison than those he is trying to set free. “But I must save them!”, he cries. “I have found information they don’t know!”. Sure, maybe he has. But he is not going to convince those dug into their own foxholes. It doesn’t matter the topic … politics, pandemics, whatever. The Generals of this conflict are not the leaders that he imagines. He is fighting the wrong war. And he will push back hard against anyone who dares to tell him so.

Think about it for a minute. Pick anything that has two sides. The Army-Navy football game perhaps. If I get on Facebook and show that Navy Admiral Smith has fornicated with the devil and has lied about his allegiance to those who serve on water … are all of the folks at the game wearing the blue and gold going to suddenly switch sides? That answer is no. Swap politics and vaccine nonsense for team allegiance and the picture remains unchanged. So exactly what and/or who IS the real villain then?

My mental health has come to the conclusion that the onslaught of everything serves someone else. The media perhaps. Corporate entities. The “1%” even. It doesn’t matter though. It really doesn’t. Because they win when the entirety of the rest of us lose. When we get completely ensnared in the web and can’t even see that we are trapped. (And yea, think Matrix if that helps the imagery). Every single media site slams us with breaking news about conflict. Stories designed to inflame and keep us coming back for more. Social media platforms do the same. We align ourselves with like-minded individuals and our conversations devolve into single topics, fed by our insatiable thirst for more conflict.

For a lot of folks, this is pleasure. Otherwise, why would we do it? The very paradigm that we blindly follow is designed and executed to give us mental and emotional orgasms, and to feel empty when we don’t continuously engage in the game. This is truth for a lot of folks, but not all.

I am in the “not all” camp. Not that I’m superior to the fray or above it all. Not that I’m in a deeper web. But because I’m following a line of script from War Games. “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.” is the conclusion of WOPR, the computer blindly intent on ending the world. And that has become my own personal mantra. Not to win, but to survive.

I physically and mentally cringe when I hear the battle over things like “vaccine hesitancy” and “MAGA”. It actually hurts. Where others get pleasure from the conflict, I get pain. As in actual mental and emotional abuse. I can feel my insides blistering because it’s a battle designed to be ever-continuous. To always leave the individual in a state of near-win, but always needing more. It’s an addiction that is unhealthy for me. For others too, I’m sure. But that’s the irony of it all … if I push back against this whole concept then I’m playing the same game with a different topic.

I have made the decision to step away. I don’t watch/read the news, except to cherry-pick stories that have actual importance and knowledge. I walked away from Facebook and only use Instagram and Twitter for my business. I crave discussing topics outside of battle lines. And I’m very vocal to those around me that I’m not shunning their conversations because I’m better than they, but because I’m doing everything I can to stay mentally sound. But sadly, most folks can’t see it.

If I were an alcoholic and told people not to gift me bottles of booze, they would of course happily support me. It would be cruel to do otherwise. But when I tell those same people that my mental health cannot absorb even a modicum of conflict-based covid-battle or political strife, they are confused and offer it to me anyway. Demand that I accept it. And when I push back, they get hurt that I’m not accepting their gifts.

I’m writing this post for a very specific reason. Not to inflame, nor to preach or to sway others to “my side”. But to beg those in my circle to understand my affliction. I cannot take a sip of their alcohol, period. And I do want desperately to discuss life with them, but not on topics that can never be resolved or learned from. I need to have happy and joyful interactions and to explore our worlds together. For me, there is no other option. This is who I am, and who I always will be.

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