Yesterday I checked into Twitter for the latest news and, once again, I regretted it.
I’ve gotten into the habit of scrolling through my Twitter feed hourly and finding that it’s more than I can handle.
Is it me, or the fact that I’m getting older? Maybe it’s because I never paid much attention to world news when I was raising a family. If I had extra time that day I’d scan the headlines from the AP wire, but seldom read anything at length. If it wasn’t happening in our small western Pennsylvania locale I felt detached from it…and moved on.
Today’s 24/7 news cycle provides a continuous stream of stories from the entire planet, but I don’t feel that sense of detachment anymore. On the contrary, I feel intensely connected to people and situations that are happening far away.
No, I don’t personally know the students from the Catholic school in KY who made a name for themselves on Saturday in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Or, the gentleman leading the Indigenous Peoples’ March. I just know that I felt a level of anger, sadness, and shock, as if I’d been there myself.
I used to enjoy Facebook for keeping up with family and friends, but am constantly bombarded with news of animal abuse. This is probably because I joined a few rescue groups and the algorithm picked up on it. The photos are heartbreaking and make me seriously wonder how many sociopaths are walking around.
I’ve developed a keen empathy for animals that I never had before. The thought of strays out in the harsh winter weather makes me really anxious. We spent the morning digging out from Winter Storm Harper and I was also worried about the birds, squirrels, and chipmunks. They inhabit the large arbor vitae trees in my backyard. As soon as I could clear a path, I loaded up several feeders with seed and put down some corn cobs. Ten years ago I was living a different life in a different location and didn’t give the animals much thought.
So, what changed?
Well, I’m not quite as busy as I was a few decades ago. In those days working full-time and parenting three children consumed my days and energy. Today my kids are grown, I work part-time, and actually have stretches of hours to myself.
Getting older brings us to an appreciation for things that we didn’t have before. My beloved kitty rescued me last year and provides companionship and affection. As a stray she made me more aware about the plight of those who aren’t wanted or cared for. This in turn raised my consciousness regarding the less fortunate and all the valid reasons they fail to thrive. I’m slower to judge and act more in a spirit of generosity.
Maturity also helps us develop better insight. We experience many different types of people in a lifetime and they all teach us something. Good and bad traits become easier to recognize.
Add to this the connectivity of the Internet and it’s not surprising I no longer feel detached. I’ll never forget these photos of the Syrian boy in the back of the ambulance after yet another attack on Aleppo. Or, the second one of the three-year-old refugee drowned in the Mediterranean as his family tried to reach Europe. These happened far away from my hometown, but they hurt my heart deeply.
And while it’s hard to witness all that goes on in the world and still remain hopeful, we must do it. Losing hope creates doubt and undermines the confidence that we can make positive changes.
It’s certainly easier to detach and concern ourselves only with ourselves. After all, we can’t fix all the problems in the world. But, being aware helps to cultivate compassion and appreciation for our blessings. An attitude of gratitude enables us to recognize what others need and then offer whatever help we can.
I’ll continue to keep up with current events on a daily basis because that’s who I am. And I’ll continue to be shocked, disgusted, saddened, repulsed, and all the other negative reactions that the news evokes. But, I’ll also be reminded of how lucky I am and how important it is to stay connected to the world.
I’ll connect everyday, just not every hour.