I have a hunch that people are not feeling quite so happy with mobile devices and social media these days. This technology which keeps people so well connected is, this summer, connecting them to a parade of war news from all sides of the planet. The news is as tragic as it is impossible to avoid. And the media makes it worse than it might have been in decades past by making the mayhem and death seem more local than it is. It is the historically unprecedented experience of having five or more simultaneous wars in your own backyard.
The technology by itself doesn’t provide a way to scale back your online war experience. It is no help to ask your online friends not to emphasize the war news so much, because just mentioning the topic furthers that conversation. Everyone sees these topics differently anyway. Some take the violence of war as an imperative to organize politically and may be angry at those who are not as outraged as they are. Others, needless to say, are offended by that approach and see it as heartless opportunism, taking political advantage of people who are already the victims of violence. Of course, there are also those who view war almost as a sport and root for one side or the other. It is a point of view that is unfathomable to the two I mentioned previously. One way or another, it is an argument waiting to happen. Of course, it is better for all if this argument does not take place directly on someone’s news feed or blog comments.
It is not just the war news itself, as bad as that is, that makes social media and mobile communications unhappy. The stress of non-stop war can put people in a irritable mood, so that they may react sharply on unrelated topics. To cope you may have to lower your expectations. Don’t lean on social media and mobile so much when they are in a bad mood. Don’t expect it to be as pleasant as it might be in happier times. Don’t try quite so hard to stay connected. Spend more time offline with the people who are physically there where you are. Go to the beach if you can. Most of all, don’t hold your breath. When one or two wars are going on, you can hope that they will be resolved somehow in the coming days. When it is five or ten wars, it is a good thing to pray for peace, but not a realistic thing to expect in the short term. If history is a guide, the war news will be around at least for the rest of this year. If it is becoming all too much, you just have to stay away from it as much as it takes to keep your emotional balance. And for those on the other side of it, if you are getting all too wrapped up in a war that is not really your own, make sure you are not suffering from it yourself (if you are losing sleep, it is a sign you have taken it a step too far) or alienating your friends by identifying so closely with the culture of war and the distressing news that it brings.