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How 2016 Really Messed Us Up

2016 is over, and I spent a lot of time writing and re-writing this column to decide exactly how I wanted to honor it. The general consensus is that it sucked. Trevor Noah described it as “The year that started with Zika and then went bad.” The rest of the internet made its opinion clear via memes, images like the one above, the infamous /r/fuck2016 subreddit, and more.

The other day I shared a link to this article on Twitter. I think it gives some good arguments for exactly why internet communities feel like 2016 was so surreal. And it kind of comes down to this: If you’re a privileged American, who’s been spending years building up on online presence and getting more and more technology that plugs you into the data stream so you can be the most informed person you can be, this was the year it finally screwed you up. We’ve finally reached the point where news is no longer something you go find. It’s something that’s just given to you. Constantly. Mercilessly. 

And it’s not like you can just blame “the media” for this problem of pushing negative news down our throats. People feel such a strong need to engage with the media now that chances are you’re getting most of your news from people you know. The only reason you knew that James Comey was reopening investigation into Hillary Clinton is because someone you know just had to comment on it. Most people probably don’t follow a major news source on Twitter, but they do follow somebody that shares the big, scary stories from that source. And then our phone gives us a little notification that says “See Twitter highlights from your followers!” And suddenly it feels like every single week, we have another mass shooting, another protest, another police-caused fatality, another act of political corruption or scandal.

It’s too early to say that 2016 was the year the world started going downhill, even if terrorist attacks, blatant corruption, and xenophobic movements make it look that way now. But it might be fair to say that 2016 really screwed up our psychologies. I know it affected me: this was the first year that I really got involved in politics, and now I’m one of those people who just can’t help making his argument clear in the Facebook comments. This year I got legitimately stressed out reading the news. I actually cried a few times. That’s what’s happening to us. 

I had so much I wanted to say about 2016 here. I was going to talk about the low points, but also point out the high points, because there were plenty of high points. But you can go elsewhere to find those lists. Instead I want to talk about what I want to do better moving forward. We need to not let a constant stream of negative news affect our lives, or we need to cut down on the ways that news is fed to us. I’m going to share more positive news and uplifting things in order to help improve my friends’ newsfeed, and I’d ask that all of my friends see if they can do the same.

7 is my lucky number, and I’m filled with hope for 2017. I’m going to end with my other New Year’s Resolutions.

  • I will prioritize the things that are important to me, not procrastinate them, and fill my life with work that feels meaningful.
  • I will not let things that bring me down or stress me out stay in my life because I’m not willing to let go of them.
  • I will spend more time complimenting people and telling them how I really feel and less time analyzing things.
  • I will not be afraid of the future, but instead I will create it myself.

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