November 18, 2020
Halloween was two weeks ago. On Halloween night, my kids trick or treated for several hours and accumulated a treasure trove of candy that has been sitting in my pantry since. The problem with this arrangement is that I tend to head to the kitchen for a snack, consider my healthy options, and then eat 3 or 4 of the higher quality candy options from their bags. I do my best to steal their candy evenly, so that I am not taking too much from one or the other. This weekend, my wife finally had the kids hide their bags to keep the two of us from eating it all. The strange thing is that I have plenty of good snacks that aren’t junk food. In addition, they are things that I actually enjoy eating. Still, the candy is easy and loaded with sugar so I want it. This is sort of the way that it works with people. We naturally look for the sugar high-type indulgences. The problem, of course, is that Halloween candy is not good for us on many levels, and we tend to eat way too much of it. There are plenty of examples of this in areas of our lives, beyond our eating habits. For me, and I suspect for many folks recently, news and social media are the brain candy we run to when we need a little stimulation. Scanning headlines or scrolling Facebook does little to make us better. We don’t gain information we will use later in life. We aren’t wiser for having read it. Most of it is aimed at getting us emotionally stimulated. We are angry, indignant, frustrated, etc. for a few minutes after reading, and we move on to something else. There is no growth, just a snack that gives us a sugar high. The same is true of our personal connections on Facebook. Clicking like on a picture isn’t the same, relationally, as having a conversation or sharing a joke. It’s just a momentary connection that doesn’t help us grow closer. It’s like Halloween candy. It’s yummy, but empty. The problem is that it is so tempting. It’s easy to sit and watch the crazy election news or the political wrangling or whatever else. In the end, it leaves us empty or worse. It can leave us angry, bitter, resentful, hateful, and lonely. As an experiment, I spent the last week reading something to improve myself for a couple of minutes whenever I felt tempted to scroll the news or social media. I have not read more than 10 minutes of election news in the last week. Instead, I read books on history and theology. The cool thing is that when I learned something new or something that might change how I see the world, it made me happier. I’ve had about a dozen conversations with friends about what I’ve read. I’m happier and better as a result of this practice. The difficult part of it is that it’s eating fruit instead of Snickers bars. It takes more effort and doesn’t hyper-stimulate me. I can’t be angry about the election this way. I’m better because of it. I suspect we would all be better off if we stepped away from the craziness for a little while every day and tried to grow or learn instead. At a minimum, I think we’d be happier.