Catherine Friend
Catherine Friend

Which One Describes You–Feeling Good or Doing Good?


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.)









One Response

  1. It is understandable that politicians want to get reelected — and sometimes we want them reelected. That requires them to raise money. They also respond to mass opinion, which is somewhat related to money. They track trends — they have people checking social media and log-ins to their websites. Letters, email, telephone logs, etc. help them assess trends and responses to their policies. Small donations are a sign of a citizen’s sincerity — and usually guarantees a vote. They know that thoughtful letters to newspapers reach many voters and may sway opinions (vote for good old George is not very thoughtful but a letter of appreciation for a politician’s stance on public policy does show some thought), These are all things you can do from your couch (with the TV turned off).

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The Big Pivot

About Me

After twenty-five years on the farm, I’m adjusting to the adventures of city life. Part of that adjustment is figuring out what I want to write about now, since sheep are no longer part of my daily life. I’m challenging myself creatively by painting with pastels and playing the ukelele as I seek my new writing path.


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Catherine Friend is a fiscal year 2021 recipient of a Creative Support for Individuals grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.