My Hazardous Mistake

This was week 151 of my Operation Melt journey that started with my goal to escape obesity and lose over 100 pounds in under a year. For more than two years I have been sharing my journey to both keep myself accountable and to help you as you work to crush your own goals.

Make sure to tell me what you think via the Contact Me link. While you are at it, please consider purchasing a copy of my book Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds In Under a Year.

Before we get started…

As I have moved through my journey I have become more in touch with my body. I have learned to listen to every pain, when I am hungry, when my nutrition isn’t right and a number of other things. But it doesn’t stop there. I am also more in touch with my mind, my feelings and emotions. As I have repeatedly said, this has been more than a physical journey.

That’s where this weeks post comes from, my heightened awareness of my mind and emotions. While it may not me immediately clear how this topic ties to my fitness journey, but please bear with me. It will all tie together.

One quick disclaimer before we move forward… I don’t mean this to be a rant (though there is some of that) and I don’t mean this to be political at all (though, like a horoscope, you may be able to read into it what you want).

Finally, this post is a little long. I am trying to make posts shorter these days but this one has been bouncing around in my head for a while and I want to get it out there. So thanks in advance for investing the time to read this one.

I made a mistake…

Over the past week I have spent a few hours reading comments on social media. There have been several stories about COVID-related closures and gentle reopening plans. These stories were interesting to me and I decided to read the comments.

This was a horrible mistake that I regret immensely as these comments were full of things that I wish I had not read.

Let’s start small, the comments were full of hate, anger and negativity. People selfishly and aggressively responding to each other without even hearing what the other person was saying. And the comments were ripe with insulting and dismissive (not to mention over-used) terms such as “Karen” and “boomer” and “sheep” and “snowflake.” But this was just the start.

Then there were the factual inaccuracies based on ignorance and political opinions. People were using fake facts and questionable (to be generous) news sources to make arguments that even a child could see were false. Plus there were the miracle cures and medical advice that people were spouting based on things that their favorite politicians hyped (with questionable motives) or that they heard on talk radio. And don’t get me started on the plethora of conspiracy theories.

The situations I have already mentioned are just the start and things, if you can imagine it, got way worse from there. Next up was the veiled and blatant racism, sexism and anti-Semitism that quickly appears in these comments. This hate wasn’t just directed at each other but at public figures trying their best to navigate this unprecedented pandemic. Many of the commenters weren’t even trying to hide their hate speech. This hate speech often deteriorated to people comparing others to Nazi’s, some of the most hurtful and ignorant rhetoric.

And this leads us to some of the worst of the worst. There were more than a few threats of violence towards each other and towards public figures. People who fancy themselves as brave patriots hiding behind there immense arsenals of guns claiming that they have the right to force their opinions on the people. The same people believe it is their responsibility to liberate the people from the restrictions (including something as simple as facemasks in tight quarters) designed to protect their fellow citizens. There is a dangerous irony here!

And don’t get me started on the terrible grammar, spelling and mastery of the English language possessed by the VAST MAJORITY of these commenters’!

Clearly spending any amount of time reading these comments was a huge mistake; it was really starting to make me sad and angry. That’s when it hit me, as innocent as this mistake might sound it is actually insidious and can be very hazardous to my health. And you could be making the same mistake!

Hazardous to my health…

The first way this could be hazardous to someone’s health, but not to mine, is related to pre-existing conditions. If someone is prone to depression, anxiety or anger, these comments could absolutely trigger them. I don’t fully understand those conditions and what does/does not trigger them but I am am assuming this doesn’t help.

Next is the obvious health implications from spending hours reading comments on social media. When I was sitting in one place reading the bottomless serving of negative comments I wasn’t active. I was just sitting and not getting any activity. This is bad for any of us.

But there’s more because health and fitness isn’t just comprised of one or two things, it includes all things. Sure, we all know that fitness includes what we put in our bodies – food, drinks, hydration, vitamins. We also know that fitness includes how we move our bodies – exercise, cardio, muscle building. Most people will also concede that fitness includes broader health items including seeing a doctor regularly, treatment of underlying conditions and getting sufficient sleep.

I believe that fitness also includes what ideas and other external factors we allow in our bodies. We are responsible for keeping out the negative influences in order to properly care for our mental health in addition to our physical health.

The kind of negativity included in these social media posts can get in our brains and fester. It can bring us stress. It can bring us feelings of hopelessness. It can bring sadness. It can bring anger. But it can only cause these things if we let it.

Like everywhere else in our health and fitness lives, we have choices. It is up to us to make responsible choices for how to prevent this negativity from harming our health.

So, what can we do?

Let me start by saying that we cannot stop this problem at its source. The same rights that afford me the privilege to share this blog with you also allow others to express themselves too. This includes protecting the most vile and ignorant of comments. But I would encourage you to use each platform to report comments that go too far – blatant racism, threats of violence, etc.

The easiest solution to this problem, and the one I should have embraced, is not to spend time reading comments from people you don’t know. And, whatever you do, certainly don’t engage with the commenters. These people are trolls who live off of creating conflict and anger. Don’t give them that pleasure. Read comments on things you post, things your friends post and stop there.

Next, we should each be educating ourselves about the truth and reality. Do this through reputable, researched, fact based sources. Avoid sources where you can’t tell if they are reputable or that you have never heard of before. There are tons of sources online that exist simply to advance political opinions, see products or to mislead the public. Remember that knowledge is power.

One other thing that I have found comforting is to remember that these negative, hate-filled comments represent only a minority view. Yes, they are a loud and growing minority, but the vast majority of people are not filled with this hate.

I spend time seeking alternative stories including examples of the best of humanity. This includes stories of healthcare workers who are working tirelessly to care for the sick at significant personal risk. Seeking out inspiring and uplifting things helps to keep my mood and energy going the right way. And every little bit of positivity helps.

Finally I am working to be a leader in this space. I am working to share positive and uplifting things every day – like my daily gratitude post. I am going to continue to avoid posting negative things including negative comments on news stories and other social media posts.

The only way the negativity wins is if we let it and I don’t plan to stop leading the charge against it.

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