By no means is the world a great place, nor has it been for centuries. We were, however, once permitted to travel and roam freely before the sudden confinement to isolation. Waking up everyday to repeat the same tasks over a year-long pandemic is something that can be considered as mundane. Then with our increased engagement with global news, our lives are becoming more and more consumed by the media.
Ironically, this article took a while to write because I was exhausted by both work and the media. Despite the emphasis on taking time away from our screens, our screens are often the easiest way to take a break from our work too. After sitting through multiple lectures or staring at your essay with precisely zero thoughts, the simplest way of resting is to scroll mindlessly through Twitter or Instagram.
Most of us do have hobbies and interests but finding the time to truly engage feels sparse nowadays. In spite of the free time gained during the pandemic, it is often hard to make time for our hobbies – especially when there is this added pressure to be extra productive during the multiple lockdowns. Either way, constant engagement with the same activity can be tiring and redundant for many.
Rather than using my 15-minute break between lectures to dramatically paint a landscape, it is far simpler to play on Twitter and TikTok. As of late, however, the time spent on social media can be drowned out by news rather than free enjoyment. My social media algorithm has transformed from hobby-based content to news and social awareness, likely due to my engagement with activism in the first place.
For a few years, I’ve been engaging and supporting activist movements like Black Lives Matter amongst many other minority movements. The engagement with movements has undeniably been a great learning experience in both historical and modern contexts. Learning through creators on platforms like YouTube and TikTok (more recently) was fundamental in building my world knowledge as well as awareness.
Perhaps due to the pandemic confronting us and our time, there’s been a massive increase in engagement with global news. People are becoming more aware of the world around us and its many troubles. As someone who admittedly enjoys spending time on social media, it is also hard to use as an escape when these platforms are constantly filled with dreadful news.
At one point a month ago, my entire TikTok feed was filled with activism and awareness surrounding Hinduism and South Asian culture; this wave of information regarding our struggles with racism, colourism and colonialism was incredibly hard to digest in such a short space, especially as an Indian woman. Paired with the Farmers Protests in Punjab, a lot of media I consumed is directly related to me or issues pertaining to me.
This would lead to exhaustion when consuming media as it was constant disdain and pain to experience while simply trying to take a break from work. It becomes unbearable to consume media directly relating to my own struggles, especially on a daily basis. Being reminded constantly of your own pain, and pain from other people too is gruelling for your mental health.
With the recent #ProtectAsianLives movement appearing in the limelight, activism and awareness are at their height in the news. While this is a young movement in comparison to others, activism to protect Asian lives is one which personally affects and touches many of us across the globe. Due to the pandemic, the number of hate crimes against East and South East Asians have increased by virtue of the anti-Asian rhetoric spread in covid propaganda.
While activism is always greatly appreciated, social media has opened the gateway for widespread coverage which often leads to performative gestures and criticism. At its peak last summer, Black Lives Matter received widespread coverage which spawned performative gestures like the black square and commodification of the phrase ‘acab’. This can also be seen with the Protect Asian Lives movement, as people have begun commodifying the movement by selling merch or quite literally using anime as a reason to support the movement – rather than using empathy.
Switching off from the news, especially as a person of colour, is fundamental for preserving mental health. To witness the gentrification of my entire religion in addition to the widespread racism towards South-Asians in real life, it has become increasingly hard work to stay informed during these times. The fear of missing an important breakthrough or update in activist movements is an added stress to bear, and will inevitably need to be sacrificed for our own wellbeing.
Taking the time to protect yourself from the news is essential. It takes an incredibly strong mind to engage and stay active with the news, especially in the midst of a pandemic which drains your energy as it is. Whilst some may need to take time off from the world but others feel unable to, we should remind ourselves of the need to protect everyone we can from the hardships of life.
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