You know the saying “you are what you eat”? I think that applies to what you read on the internet. And generally, I don’t spend much time reading typical trashy websites (like People or Gawker). I usually focus more on news sites. But, depending how you read and use those sites, I think they can be equally bad.
For me, I find I easily get sucked into reading the comments or following forums and blogs (usually the comments). While I rarely to contribute to any of these, I will still find that I can’t look away. For some, I even find myself returning to see if anyone has responded to so-and-so and what they said.
However, what I’ve noticed recently (as I read the climbing book I’ve been taking more time to do some mental checks on what I’m thinking) is that what I read as a huge influence over how I think on a given day. And sure, I can mean this on the level of which political party I’m more inline with, or how I feel about certain local, national or international issues.
But what I find really happens, is that the more time I spend reading comments the more negative I become. (I don’t find news articles themselves particularly bad, it’s usually the comment sections where stuff falls apart.) Some comments make my blood boil. Others make me want to cheer for the writer and jump into defend them. And then there are the ones that just leave me wanting to weep for humanity. After reading comments, when I move back to doing my own work, I’m no longer looking at it with a positive mindset, but with all of this negativity still swirling around in my head.
For me, I’m finding that this actually strongly influences how I see what I’m doing. Which in turn, affects my ability to make progress. Instead of taking a step back, and trying to think through why something isn’t working, I’ll end up frustrated and annoyed. I want to blame someone else, instead of taking responsibility for what happened. I think this happens, partly because this is often the general theme that comes out of many comments – that it’s not their fault, or the person in the articles fault, but that “something” is out to get them. And it’s easy to fall into this victim mentality.
While it’s a work in progress to not let this stuff affect me, there’s a few things I’m doing that are helping. I know I’m going to keep reading the articles. I’m addicted to news. But, there’s no one forcing me to read the comments. So while I will read them on occasion, I try to close the page the moment I notice the comments are getting to me. And on articles about certain topics, I’m more likely to avoid reading both the articles and the comments. When I do read comments, I try to stick to sites where I have, in the past, found much higher levels of debate/conversation that aren’t focused on name calling and attacks. I would stop reading comments altogether, but I have come across interesting links, related to the article at hand, from the comments and I don’t want to ‘miss out’ on those.