A Delicate Balance

I’ve gained almost ten pounds in the past two years, and I’m blaming it on this blog.  It takes a lot of time to write my posts and answer the comments on them, and it takes even more time to read and comment on all the other blogs I follow.  And to make matters worse, once I’m sitting at my computer, I feel the need to read and answer my emails, and then to head on over to Facebook to see if anyone has posted anything more interesting than the latest political outrage or a photo of their lunch.  And all of this takes time, which means I’m spending more and more time sitting, which we all know is not exactly good for our bodies.  Hence the weight gain in the two years I’ve been writing this blog.

And honestly, it’s not just my body that suffering from all those hours spent sitting in front of my computer.  The internet is a wonderful thing, but it can also be incredibly depressing.  The non-stop bad news, the hateful comments and name-calling, and even the photos of lost pets can be overwhelming at times.  If I’m not careful, surfing the world-wide web can leave me thinking that this world is just plain mean and dangerous, and that basic human decency is nothing more than an illusion.

So what do I do?  Do I abandon my blog, deactivate my Facebook account, unplug my computer and live “off the grid” for the rest of my life?   Or do I just pretend that I’m not spending far too much time looking through pictures posted by people I barely know when I could be doing something far more productive?  (And by the way, it’s not “creeping” to look through people’s Facebook posts and photos.  If something is private, don’t put it on social media in the first place.)

I know many people who don’t do social media, and even some who rarely, if ever, utilize the internet.  They’re happy with their choice, and that’s great.  But it’s not the right choice for me.  I like the way I’ve connected with old friends, and keep in touch with far-away family and friends through Facebook, and I’ve become rather dependent on the ability to easily find so much useful information just by Googling it.  Even more, I love blogging because it has me writing regularly again and has connected me to terrific writers and readers from all over the world.  I honestly don’t want to give any of that up.

Which leaves me with only one obvious choice:  find a balance.  There is a huge middle ground between wasting hours every day sitting in front of my computer and abandoning it altogether.  I can write my blog, keep my Facebook account and otherwise use the internet while still making sure I get physical exercise every single day.   I can skim the news stories on the internet, reading only the ones I need to, and skip the comment section altogether.  I can enjoy seeing the photos of my friend’s new grandchildren on Facebook while blocking the posts that I know are going to ruin my mood for the rest of the day.

It’s just a matter of discipline and taking control of my life and making intentional choices about how I want to spend my time.  Of course it won’t be easy, but so many things that are worthwhile and necessary for living a meaningful life aren’t especially easy.  And it’s either that or go shopping for some bigger jeans….

Too Much Information

Ann by TVI was born in 1958, which means I was raised during a time when information wasn’t as accessible as it is today.  Our household had one television with four channels, one radio, and one telephone which we all shared.  There was no internet, no personal computers, and no one had a cell phone with the ability to call, text, email, and both take and share photos.  We got our news from daily newspapers and nightly newscasts, and we stayed in touch with faraway friends and family mostly through letters, because long-distance phone calls were expensive.  By today’s standards, we lived very isolated lives.

These days, we are constantly besieged with information.  Thanks to the internet, cable  TV and smart phones, we know instantly about every world conflict, the most recent public health scare, the current political scandal, the latest terrorist threat, the newest environmental crisis, and a whole list of other problems guaranteed to cause us nonstop worry and stress.  We are besieged with images of starving children, violent battles, flooding or droughts, abused animals and angry politicians, just to name a few.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I respond by trying to tune all of it out and just focusing on my own personal business, almost as if all these issues didn’t exist.  It’s not that I believe that they’ll go away if I ignore them, it’s just that I often feel overwhelmed by all the problems and the knowledge that I can’t even begin to understand, much less solve, them all.  It’s depressing, and I don’t particularly like being depressed.

But I know that’s not the answer.  I want to live my life to the fullest, and I know I can’t do that if I allow myself to withdraw from the world.  I don’t want to be uninformed about important issues, because I know that ignorance is not always bliss, and sometimes it’s downright dangerous.  Pretending that the problems of the world don’t exist also means that I don’t do my part, however small, to help make things better.

The answer, I think, is making an intentional decision to filter the information I receive, and to make choices about how I react to it.  I don’t have to let anyone else determine what I need to know or how I need to think and feel.  Technology guarantees that I will always be exposed to more information than I can possibly process, let alone respond to, and that’s okay.  But it’s up to me to decide what I want to dwell on, which issues I want to act on, and which issues I don’t.

I know there will still be times when I long for the days of my youth, when information about all the world’s problems tended to be served up in small and manageable packages.  But those times are gone, for better or for worse, and I remind myself that I really can handle the information age I now live in.  It just a matter of knowing where to draw the line.