Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash
Last week I shared Brink Lindsey’s first civic virtue: Treat all your fellow citizens, regardless of their political views, as your civic and political equals. Feels impossible some days, but still, a worthy goal. Here’s another of his civic virtues, and this one might be easier to achieve: Emphasize doing good over feeling good.
He writes that a “large and growing number of Americans “spend hours binge-watching Fox News or MSNBC, doomscrolling on Twitter, or arguing with friends on Facebook.” These people think they are engaging in politics, but they aren’t, any more than someone watching the Super Bowl is actually playing football. They are using using politics as a hobby.
The problem is that all this screen time contributes almost nothing to the world. It rewards politicians for “behaving badly” because political hobbyists give them so much attention. It doesn’t strengthen our patience and empathy as Americans, but instead “cultivates outrage.”
And here’s Lindsey’s point: Politics as a hobby emphasizes feeling good about yourself (that adrenaline hit you get from posting and watching it go viral) over actually doing good in the world.
It feels good to post political memes on social media. It feels good to sit around with friends and bash the other party. Let’s face it–most of us have done it. A person can almost get high from the experience… (At least that’s what I’ve heard…)
But Lindsey’s right: Whom does that behavior help? What does it change or improve? Nothing.
Just think what we could accomplish if we channeled all that negative energy into a project that actually improved our communities.
I feel naive and silly when I type that, but seriously, where is the negativity getting us? All it’s gotten me is a tense jaw, insomnia, and many extra pounds (and I don’t mean the British kind.)