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Tragedy porn addiction.  I’m sure someone much smarter than me came up with this idea long before I did, but I’ll gladly take credit for coining it.  What is tragedy porn addiction?  I define it as an unhealthy obsession, often media fueled, with upsetting events or circumstances in your life or in the lives of others.  These events or circumstances can be as small as gossip about an individual problem, such as little Timmy’s smoking habit that may propel him into a early grave.  Some folks will Tweet hourly about their persistent struggles with an obnoxious co-worker.  For other people, it can be the untold hours of mindless scrolling through contentious Facebook comments.  On a larger scale it can present itself as the seemingly endless coverage of the atrocities perpetrated by ISIS, ISIL, the Islamic State, or whatever they are calling themselves these days.  The point is this: in our culture we seem to love to focus on truly awful things…and we freaking love it!  We can’t get enough of it and we’re addicted.

Turn on the TV.  I dare you.  I challenge you to find a single news outlet that isn’t dwelling on the protests and demonstrations surrounding the results of this election.  I realize that yesterday, I just finished writing about empathy and the importance of stepping into someone else’s shoes.  I’m not backing down from that or contradicting myself, so hear me out.  While it’s important to be informed and knowledgeable about world events, we need to give equal or greater attention to the amazing things that we take for granted.  For example, every morning I get up, work out for 30 minutes, and then go take a shower.  A little over one-third of the world’s population does not have access to adequate sanitation according to a United Nations study from 2013.  Let that sink in for a second.  That is a tragedy.

Something struck me this morning while I was talking on the phone with my buddy Justin.  I got in my car and said, “Crap, I left my earbuds inside and now I have to walk all the way back inside to get them!”  We both stopped and laughed as I broke down the absurdity of my complaint: “Now I have to get out of my BMW, walk back into my 2600 square foot house in a nice, private community that is five minutes from the beach, go all the way over to my couch while gliding over hardwood floors in my premium leather shoes and get my earbuds so I can talk to you on my 64G iPhone.”  While that is funny, it’s also ridiculous and I do it every day.

Now look, I get it.  Some things really are frustrating with respect to our #firstworldproblems.  Like why the hell are we putting chili in coffee now?  This shouldn’t be a thing.  Some of you may disagree with me, but you can just go back to your trench with your spicy Satan drink.  In all seriousness though, we as Americans are incredibly out of touch with the rest of the world.  We are more consumed with the details of Kim Kardashian’s robbery than we are with the fact that 1 in 10 people in the world don’t have access to clean drinking water.  I’m not trying to turn this into one of those terrible Sarah McLachlan dog commercials.  You all know the one that I’m talking about…where the desire to adopt a puppy is far outweighed by the desire to end the assault on your ear drums by jumping head first into a wood chipper. But come on people!  Wake up!

I really think that the Federal Government should sponsor trips for US citizens to travel to impoverished places.  I’d pay more taxes to that end.  I can tell you from experience, it will change your life.  And while  the government probably will never do that, you can do it right now.  Pick a humanitarian agency or religious group and just go.  Take a week or if you don’t have the PTO, take a weekend.  You don’t have to go far and you don’t have to go abroad either.  This is all part of getting out of your trench!

The media has done a fine job of serving up grade A tragedy porn on a silver platter for way too long.  Turn off the damn TV and go to a soup kitchen.  It doesn’t have to be that extreme, but you get the idea.  Believe me, I’m preaching to myself here.  I’d much rather play golf or get lost in a 10 hour Netflix binge-fest.  My experience is that when you focus too much on yourself you become, as my buddies St. Augustine and Martin Luther put it,  incurvatus in se, which literally means “curved inward on oneself”.

I don’t know about you, but when I focus on living only for myself, I’m miserable.  Maybe that’s why I’m starting this blog, because I need to get out of myself.  I encourage you to find the things that get you out of yourself and run to them.  Is it playing the piano?  Go play some songs for the old folks at a nursing home.  Is it going to the pub?  Go talk to the guy that’s sitting all alone by the crappy electronic poker machine.  Is it Broadway musicals?  Find someone you normally wouldn’t hang out with and take them to see Hamilton.  (My wife will be happy for that reference as she is seeing it in NYC as I write this!)  Whatever it is that gets you out, that’s what will break the addiction to tragedy porn.

Tragedy porn leaves all of us feeling lonely and sad.  I’ve been trying to seek out the real tragedies in this world and go to them, not with an arrogant spirit of self-righteous do-goodery, but with an open mind.  There are tons of people in this world with incredible stories just waiting to be discovered.  With all of the technology induced isolation I see on a daily basis, I’ve come to the conclusion that we as a species seem to be all alone together.  That’s what tragedy really is folks: feeling alone.  Reach out.  Someone is counting on you and they don’t even know it yet.