Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Advice for upset millennial: Unplug from media

- Adapted from an online discussion. CAROLYN HAX Chat online with Carolyn at 11 a.m. each Friday at washington­ Write to Tell Me About It in care of The Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071; or email tellme@washpos

DEAR CAROLYN: I’m a millennial feeling overwhelmi­ngly hopeless lately. Between the children suffering in concentrat­ion camps, impending climate disaster and a government that is utterly ineffectiv­e and controlled by a handful of people who make me feel terrorized on a daily basis, life is feeling meaningles­s to me.

I am afraid to have children. I am worried nothing we do matters anymore. I am upset that everyone is buried too deeply in their online worlds to tune into how urgent these problems are. I am not seeing the point in anything and to “think positive” seems impossible without going into denial and pretending things are OK when they’re not. What can I do?

— Everything Is on Fire DEAR READER: What we do always matters, to us if nothing else, though interconne­ctedness amplifies our actions in ways that I think we fail to appreciate. Every person whose life you touch, even if you just graze it once in passing, is affected by your choices.

So instead of living in a macro place of hopelessne­ss, please push yourself deliberate­ly to a micro place of purpose. (It’s Wonderful Life captures this and gets quite dark before it lightens.)

Thinking this way is not denial. It’s living life on what has been the normal human scale since there were humans. “Online worlds” are so recent as to be a nanosecond’s worth of history.

And, with all due respect, I think the “online worlds” phenomenon is as guilty of bombarding you with urgent problems as it is of sheltering people from them. Your exposure to the ills you cite is disproport­ionately high relative to even a couple of decades ago when 24-hour news was in its infancy and people still had to go into the den before the TV could blast them with more informatio­n than they could usefully process.

We now have immediate and constant access to informatio­n without proportion­ate access — not even close — to ways to respond usefully to it.

So. First thing I suggest is unplugging. Not permanentl­y, just until you feel less overwhelme­d and anxious. Be local, be present, be productive, be generous with your time and effort toward your immediate environmen­t. And when you resume paying attention, choose responsibl­e sources and set limits.

With all your newly freed-up time, have a nice long date with Steven Pinker at stevenpink­ Add data-supported optimism to your informatio­n diet. He is excellent and persuasive on the gap between what we perceive to be wrong and what actually is, and therefore the gap between what we perceive to be helpful and what actually is.

Then, if and when you’re ready, pick one or two ways you can work toward the general good that will allow you to see the effects of your efforts.

Also, I say it last but it should come first, please check in with your primary care physician. It’s not unusual for external anxieties to be internaliz­ed into clinical ones.

Re: Millennial: Volunteer. Donate. I find unplugging and ignoring these huge issues to be part of the problem.

— Be the Change! DEAR READER: Yes, but even the most active activists need rest. Cycle out, regroup, cycle back in. (See also: my second-to-last paragraph.)

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Washington Post Writers Group/NICK GALIFIANAK­IS
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