Everybody Calm Down
[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]
The more time I spend on the internet, the more I dislike the internet, which is a lovely reason to spend less time (you guessed it) on the internet.
Last week I upset someone because I wrote about not isolating due to COVID anymore. I upset another person because I made a joke about putting your hand on a hot stove if you're upset that I'm not isolating. One told me that my joke is violence, the other that I'm privileged and selfish. Both of these people don't matter, but what does matter is that they are taking my words and actions as direct personal assaults. This makes me tired. This makes me dislike people. This makes me want to go live off-grid with a lumberjack and my cat. It also makes me want to scream into the abyss that is the internet, "let me f*&#ing live!"
I am deeply certain that if someone wants to insult you, you'll know about it. I'm also certain that sometimes, people say inappropriate things or do things that make others uncomfortable. Both truths can exist. Life is not a zero sum game.
The other week I was running in the mountains by myself, and part of my run took me a couple miles down a mountain road. A man was driving an SUV and would stop his car, wait for me to run near it, pull ahead, and stop again. This little game of cat and mouse went on for nearly two miles until I came to a trailhead where more people were gathered, and the man drove away. I could assume a number of things about this person. Because I'm a woman, I was alone, and I'm not a standard, one-size-fits-all idiot, I assumed his intentions were not pure. I bought some mace and carry it with me now, because #notallmen or whatever.
I'm telling you this story because there is a difference between real danger and having your feelings hurt. Both are not nice, but saying that I'm no longer isolating myself is not an act of violence. The man in the car was creepy, but he didn't carry out an act of violence either. It is a waste of time to be offended by everything and everybody. It is also just not very smart.
There are about 80 people who will point out that I'm young, white, able-bodied, etc, and so do not recognize my privilege. There are another 80 people who will negate my fear of the man in the car and claim that he wasn't, in fact, being creepy. The far left and the far right have become, in my brain, the same sort of sickness. One side cries wolf constantly, the other condones or even engages in sexism, racism, misogamy, and every other bad word you can think of. But hyper-sensitivity is no better than hyper-aggression. One is spurred on by the other until nobody makes any goddamned sense anymore.
If you're still reading, I'll buy you a drink. The internet likes takeaways and bulleted lists so here are some fun, creative ways to mind your own business and not be offended by everything:
1. Stop assuming everything is personal. It's probably not.
Nobody is thinking about you. We're all too busy thinking about ourselves. That is all.
2. Practice the art of detachment.
Detachment sounds cold, but it's not. It's actually a secret to inner peace. Detachment can best be described as a process of letting go. Holding on to an idea just because you have become attached to it creates anxiety. Once you detach from a desired outcome, you can stop worrying about it. Most attachment is about control, and control is an illusion. Detaching from the things that cause you anxiety will not impact anyone but yourself and will only make you happier.
3. Practice self-love and self-acceptance.
I've thought about this at length, and I've decided it's just a fact: if you don't look for validation from others, you can't be offended by their opinions of you. Nurture yourself, learn to truly love yourself, and you will be more consistently happy.
4. Practice non-judgement: let others be themselves.
We all have ideas about how to live; about what is good to say or do, and about what is wrong. It's important to approach people and ideas you don't understand without judgement. If you don't judge anyone for how they choose to live their choices can't offend you. Plus, judging someone for their choices will almost certainly not convince them to change. It's a useless emotion. Spend the time and energy it takes to judge others on something more fulfilling or important.
P.S. Drop me a line if you'd like to roast me. Watch Dave Chappelle talk about cancel culture here, watch Trevor Noah's interview with the BBC here, or watch a TEDx talk about cancel culture here.