The mental perils of social media/news

I feel this. I am similarly trying to wean myself away from social media. Twitter used to be fun, now it’s a gladiator pit and it’s hard to get over the change. I’ve fallen back in and engaged but now I recognize that I’m only tweaking my own mental health by engaging with the arguments. There’s no disagreement on there I’ve had that I myself haven’t voluntarily jumped into thinking I could change someone’s mind, but the truth is I cannot and I need to be okay with that. Participating is only a waste of my time, mental health, and energy.

I’m not all the way there, but I understand the problem.


I have always struggled to “get” Twitter. I think maybe I never learned how to use it correctly? I have always felt like I was casting words into the void.


I think you’re both in the USA? So I understand you live in a more internally fighty country.

That said, are we talking about news? My advice would be to get news from a high quality newspaper. For all of the reasons of higher quality of content, elimination of ads and clickbait and the context of internet junk, get away from the screen, eliminate the ill-making conflation of news and social media. You don’t have to comment on anyone or anything.

I can still buy the Sydney Morning Herald here, and I’ll do so until they stop printing it. Even the online version of a quality paper like this one is poorer in presentation and context than the physical, and can’t reproduce the ‘what’s good for me’ benefits of the physical, where it’s easy and enjoyable to read stuff that’s good for me and makes me better informed, but that I wouldn’t necessarily choose to read as soon as I’m forced to click to pick each topic.



I actually don’t get newspapers, but I do listen to NPR (national public radio) which is a bit more cerebral than the political pundits and doesn’t just do news.

You have to follow a lot of people and be followed back - at least in the past, now that the algorithm has been tweaked to favor people who buy blue checks that’s all out the window.

The appeal of twitter for me originally was it was a great thing when you have two minutes to kill and want to read something without getting absorbed in long-form discussion.


You should watch some old Soviet movies. Everyone is happy and agrees about everything, and the leaders are wonderful humanitarians. Naturally the show trials and gulags aren’t mentioned. A documentary about Hannah Arendt claimed she was indifferent to politics until she was forced to flee Germany. There is probably a middle ground between ignoring politics and arguing with Internet trolls.

Are there any other threads where this conversation could continue? I have to keep this line open in case someone has a question for me.




I prefer to think of it as our Ask Ryan thread, but thank you.


That is what we’re here for! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express a thing I was going through.

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You haven’t actually watched any old Soviet movies, have you?


I too have stopped reading the news and I feel much less anxious as a result. Occasionally I miss something big (apparently the Queen died! I didn’t even know such a thing was possible!) but mostly it’s the same old litany of human folly.

I came off Twitter at the end of last year and I don’t miss it. I don’t have anything to say to the world that hasn’t already been said by people more eloquent and better informed than myself.


Sort of off-topic, but so was this whole topic, and, besides, I don’t know when else I might bring this up.

When I was in High School, I helped run an underground paper...

…that we would print up and disseminate various ways (3 friends quietly writing articles until we had enough to release an issue completely sporadically), beginning with sliding issues into random locker vents (it wasn’t very thick, often 5 sheets or less of copypaper printed front and back and stapled in the corner, 10-14 pt font, we weren’t consistent) until the school grew wise to that. Unsurprising to anyway, the school was antagonistic to a paper over which they had no editorial control (our topic choices didn’t help endear us) and did everything they could to shut us down, which was the single most helpful thing they could have done for us. We surely would have fizzled out fairly quickly due to student apapthy (Extra reading? Beyond homework!?), but when students starting getting detentions for possessing a copy and the school started actively destroying copies when they had a chance, people began actively seeking them out. Some time later, some kind soul eventually scanned up many of the past issues and posted them online, which cenented things for us. We only needed to release a few dozen copies each time to guarantee at least one would end up online somewhere, from where it would spread to anyone else wanting to see it.

Anyway, the paper was named The Silver Lining. We would always have an article, oftentimes short and campy, sometimes fictional, always tongue-in-cheek, headlining the first page. The premise being we’d spin a piece of terrible, often tragic, news in the most facetious manner possible, focusing almost entirely on an often comically disproportionate positive aspect, and treating the terrible news as an extraneous detail barely worth mentioning, effectively burying the lead (I suspect most teens are at least temporarily edgelords). An example might be, “Florida Man Shortens Commute” when the man had, in fact, become unemployed and was now homeless picking up cans. The article might continue it’s cheerfully tonedeaf coverage including quotes from the homeless man that directly contradicted the tone of the article, often lampooning the cartoonish incompetence of the reporter.

Sometimes we would cover actual school news (often taking digs at the painfully bad legitimate school paper by covering some of the same news) in this same fashion (One I remember was roughly "Free Study Period Afforded to Students " -when the school began giving detentions for first offense tardy students) or a few times we even went entirely fictional (I remember we made some sort of joke headline about Mordor when the last of the The Lord of the Rings movies came out).

Anyway, the paper stopped after we graduated (although I later heard about sporadic short-lived copycats) and we all went our separate ways, but I’ve always thought the concept might work as ad-supported online paper covering international news in the same way. It was certainly black humor, but it was still humor, and I’ve often since wondered if that might make some bits of news more palatable and less stressful to read.


I’m glad we both had experiences with creating a phenomenon like this in our respective schools.

EDIT: Wait hold on that sounds super shady from me. I just was selling my music in middle school, but I was still moving toward a goth/cybergoth aesthetic at the time, and the counselors accused me of thoughtcrime for “looking too much like a threat to school safety”, and spreading what they thought was shooter propaganda, when I was literally writing instrumental electronic music at the time.

So my CDs kept being confiscated, lockers were being searched for my work whenever someone was not “behaving correctly”, and students were being shamed, pulled out of classes, and sent to counselors over possession of my music.

We had a teacher who decided this was draconian and actively played my music at the start of some of his classes sometimes, and I can only imagine the principal had a few words with him.


This reminds me of a series of old “Onion News Network” sketches, like this one:



Yes, that is the same premise and tone.

I think the Onion did it better, tbh.


You can find many of the movies on YouTube. The one I’m thinking of is “the fall of Berlin”. I find them fascinating from a historical/propaganda perspective; the plot isn’t great. It does have some good music by Shostakovich. You also get to see Hitler scheming with the pope and British industrialists. There are enough half truths to keep the apologists happy as long as you forget the fact that having an independent opinion would likely get you shot.

Petter might be thinking about Tarkovsky, Eisenstein, German, Sokurov, etc. To be honest I think of those directors when I see the phrase “Russian movies”.

Propaganda films everywhere are like you have described, Russian or not.


That one is about a war, so pretty much the opposite of “Everyone is happy and agrees about everything”, wouldn’t you say?

I don’t deny that there are Soviet propaganda films full of lies. It just seemed like a weird example, as Soviet cinema is a prime candidate if you wanted to show that great art can be produced under censorship.


The high school I taught at for years had a satirical, Onion-style paper that they called The Leek. It was full of outrageously false gossip about teachers and students (The Leak, get it?). There was one article where I had apparently died of excitement over the discovery of a new bacterium, and all sorts of quotes from students about how sad it was that I wouldn’t be giving final exams. Which is pretty close to what actually happens to me when the microbiology world shakes up.

I don’t think that paper survived this political climate.