What to Do When the World Happens
For me, discovering politics happened more or less overnight, and it was an experience that’ll probably sound very familiar to UN Youth regulars. I finally got onto Facebook at the start of Year 10, and a month later, I went to my first State Conference; a lot of new things were appearing in my day-to-day life, and in the middle of it all was a fresh relationship with the news. No longer was it the boring 6pm alternative to The Simpsons – it was now essential reading material, delivered straight to my Facebook feed every few minutes so that I could keep up with my newfound, ~trés intellectual~ UN Youth friends. Eventually, feeling like I had my finger on the pulse of global affairs became rewarding in its own right, and before I knew it, I was patrolling my phone for unfolding stories whenever I had a spare minute.
Now don’t get me wrong, following the news is great. But if you ride all the world’s highs and lows for long enough, the journey will inevitably start to take its toll. I found that the personal importance I’d placed on staying informed meant that, when things were getting out of control, following the stories stopped making me feel empowered and started making me feel like a helpless passenger. What’s worse, the all-encompassing nature of Facebook can make the world’s woes feel inescapable. Fortunately, there’s almost always a way to stop feeling like a passenger; if you find yourself in the same headspace, the most important thing is to do something about it, anything that refreshes and inspires you.
Of course, there’s a lot of ways to recover that willpower, depending on your own needs. For some, the best way to see the good in things will be to confront the bad stuff head-on. There are always organisations on the ground doing something to help, and those organisations can always put donations to use; you might find that raising funds for them gives you back some of the agency you were missing.
That approach isn’t for everyone, though. Taking care of yourself might involve just taking a break from all that news and noise, and that’s fine! As I think my own experience shows, there’s definitely such a thing as overexposure, and you won’t become “uninformed” just by scaling back your Facebook and/or news consumption for a while. In the meantime, you can focus on the good in your own community, give some time to local organisations to remind yourself of the difference you can make. The only thing you have to do is think about yourself; know what you’re capable of, and know what gave you the drive to engage with the world in the first place.
When terrible stories roll in from around the world, or from on your doorstep, just remember that the media don’t spare much time for the good news. For every accident or conflict, you can also find the stories of the people who went in to help, and the acts, both big and small, that enable us to cope with the tough times we encounter. You just have to look a little harder to see them.
If you or someone close to you is feeling overwhelmed by world events or is affected by trauma, there are a huge range of services to access. There’s just a few listed here:
Lifeline is available 24/7 on 13 11 14
Headspace provides services specifically tailored to young Australians
If you’re interested in donating to a cause but don’t know where to start GiveWell researches and reports on charities and their effectiveness.