One of the great ironies of modern mass communication is that while it enables us to stay in contact with friends and loved ones around the world, it also gives other people the opportunity to rob us of our happiness… simply by flooding us with negativity. It’s great that we can connect with more people than ever before, but it also means that we deal with more and more people whose idea of fun is to shit on our front step.

Welcome to Twitter, please have a nice day. 

The current election is a great example of just how much social media can clog our emotional bandwidth – the divisiveness and vitriol that has come to define the election is emotionally exhausting. Browsing Facebook and dealing with the people screaming at one another about Trump or Hillary or Bernie or Jill Stein or whomever can leave you feeling drained and miserable, even if it’s not directed at you.

Of course, the Internet’s potential for negativity isn’t restricted to an election year. As many women have found, simply having an opinion is enough to motivate assholes to start flinging shit at them. Wanting to expand gaming’s core experience beyond tits and violence similarly brought about the angry mobs looking for someone to hate on.

The fact that someone online has the temerity to exist in a way that someone else doesn’t approve of has spurred even more insults from random strangers. Someone who’s fat but is otherwise healthy, who has a happy sex life, a good job and friends may be enjoying themselves… but there are going to be people who’ll line up to yell at them and insist that they should be miserable because they’re overweight.

Even television can be another source of inadvertent misery or dissatisfaction. Most of the medium, after all, is designed to sell you something. And the best way to sell you something? Tell you – even in subliminal ways – that you shouldn’t be happy because you don’t have X. Your life is empty and miserable because you don’t do Y or you don’t look like Z.

This is why one of the most important things you can do to increase your own happiness is to limit the negativity that you expose yourself to. While it’s trendy to yell about “safe spaces” and it’s unrealistic to expect all of life to be unicorns, rainbows and unicorns farting rainbows, that doesn’t mean that you need to invite unnecessary misery into your life. Sometimes taking a break from the people hurling abuse your way in the name of “discourse” is what lets you keep you keep your sanity intact and not clog up what’s left of your emotional circuits with misery. 

Whether it means taking a social media break, cutting toxic friends out of your life or taking a long hard look at the subreddits and forums you spend time on, cutting down on the amount of vitriol, anger and bile you get exposed to daily increases your capacity to find happiness and joy, simply by freeing up your emotional bandwidth.

Don’t Try To Be Happy - Paging Dr. NerdLove