The other day, someone I deeply respect and admire, said s/he would have to unfollow me. While I was a little upset – I didn’t want to lose communication with this person – I completely understand. Now that some time has passed, I want to talk about it a bit.
This election was exhausting. The mental energy spent trying to juggle the value preferences of the candidates, the likelihood of their achieving vowed goals, and the balancing of that against the constantly changing winds of downballot races and Senate/House makeups was ridiculous. Likewise, while we all have an expectation of some pageantry and punch-throwing in American elections, this was one of the more debased and theatrical elections in my lifetime. I know I’m not that old, but despite common wisdom about Millennials, I do remember even those elections I couldn’t vote in.
NPR recently posted an article about the effect this election has had on people, focusing mainly on the lens of social media. Social media has been in the limelight for similar reasons in the past, creating new anxieties by giving us a view of peoples’ lives, but only the carefully cultivated narratives they want to present. The result is a belief that everyone else is doing well and happy while most of us don’t feel that same constant positivity and elation in our own lives.
I don’t blame this friend of mine for wanting to unfollow on the basis that s/he’s tired of the negativity. I think it’s perfectly acceptable for people to take breaks. My own insistence that we keep our friends and not be afraid to talk to one another is not a license to drown ourselves in politics. I think this is especially true when we consider that appreciating the human impact of politics (i.e., how policy actually affects our daily lives and the lives of others) is a learning process. With so many people – and I’m guilty of this too – using our feeds as a megaphone more than anything, it’s unrealistic to expect that meaningful dialogue will occur from the brunt force of immediate exposure.
I view this much in the same way I view athletics. In my running, I’m always pushing myself a bit more in each workout, but if I never took a rest day, I’d get injured. If I trained the same way the whole year, I’d get burned out. I try very hard to focus on the quality of my workouts over the total number of miles (even though mileage is important too, but that’s not the point here.)
My hope is that the people who follow me do so because they want to hear what I have to say even if they disagree with it and my thoughts frustrate them. I also hope that frustration begets consideration as to why they disagree. Maybe their end conclusion is that they still disagree but they have a better understanding as to why. For those who need a break, I get that too, and I hope these people eventually return refreshed. None of us want the behavior of this election to become habit, and sometimes stepping away and recharging our batteries is a valid way to make the “political pie” grow in the long-term.
Myself, I spent some time in Vancouver this weekend and will be returning to snowy Rochester this Thanksgiving. I’m looking forward and might be writing less, or at least writing less about politics and more about Wegmans. We’ll see. The county I grew up in was one of the few in Upstate New York that went blue. The other counties I lived and worked in went red. That might be worth exploring. Mostly, though, I’m looking forward to apple pie.