Now, more than ever

I don’t dwell on guilt much, but I have felt guilty about Love Not Fear’s dormancy in a time when it is uniquely needed. I can’t promise anything but the continued dormancy and an open offer for anyone who wants to make something happen here, but let me at least take a minute to explain what Love Not Fear means in this moment.

The twin premises of Love Not Fear are that we are driven by our screens to fear the other and we need to overcome that fear by directly encountering those we would think of as other. The prescriptions we’ve offered are to reduce your screen time, actively curate a media environment that will build you up rather than stoke fear, and get out there and encounter real people in real life who don’t look like you.

So. Here we are.

We are to varying degrees locked away from each other, and for many of us, our work and social lives have become even more mediated by screens. The cause of all this is legitimately scary. And amidst this, we’ve seen a new phase of social justice activism that calls us to consider who “us” and “them” really are.

Love Not Fear can’t do in-person events amidst a pandemic that bring different people together. Nor can we tell you to turn off your screens, when in many respects, screens are all we have. We can’t even talk about “face-to-face”; the best we can do is “mask-to-mask.”

We can tell you that the outcomes are what you would expect: more screens and less real people = more loneliness, more anxiety, more depression, across age ranges. There are stories about tweens and octogenarians who are equally challenged by the absence of in-person engagement. We knew that would happen, and we were powerless to stop it.

Amidst this, and as we head toward August, almost half a year from the beginning of all this, I’m hearing more people talking about needing to take breaks from social media and news and everything screen related, just as I’m hearing people who never engaged in issues of racism wanting to spend time with people of different races. Which is for the good.

All I can offer is a quick reset and one new wrinkle:

  1. Use the tools of your media to actively curate your screens.
    • Monitor and limit your screen time, on smart devices, computers, TVs.
    • Find someone to hold you accountable to those limits
    • Measure whether your screentime makes you more or less anxious by assessing before you log on/turn on how you feel, then measuring again when you turn it off. Let that feedback guide you.
    • Curate your feed with Facebook’s tools (and Twitter lists, and intentional playlists in streaming devices, and refusing to scroll through the channel guide to see “what’s on.”)
  2. Turn it off.
    • Talk to people – on the phone or in person
    • Go for a walk or ride or even a drive to change your scenery
    • Listen to music
    • Read things on paper
  3. Plug into the other
    • Look for ways to safely engage with anti-racism efforts, because they’re everywhere.
    • Take an online connection with someone different offline for a real conversation.
    • Pursue the many great reading/listening/viewing lists that focus not on stoking fear but on building empathy for people who have been put on different life paths than yours through the accident of their birth.
    • Learn to be an upstander instead of a bystander.

All of that, more or less, has always been a part of Love Not Fear. Here’s what I will add, as a not to the screen-reliant necessities of our time:

As you look at how you spend your time on screens each day, make three columns on a piece of paper (not an electronic file): Connect, Create, Consume. How much of your screen time was spent actively connecting with other people? How much of it was spent creating something new and (at least to someone’s eyes) beautiful? How much was just spent consuming content?

Make tomorrow less about consumption and more about connecting and creating.

That’s the only new wrinkle I have to offer right now. As always, if you have an idea for Love Not Fear that you’re willing to work on, have at it. The world needs you. Now, more than ever.

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