How To Block All The Troubling Stories In Your Social Media Feeds

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On Saturdays and Sundays, I don't look at any media, social or otherwise. Those are nice days! It's like a spa treatment for the brain. But unfortunately, my brain is addicted to social media, so come Monday I'm clicking and swiping and freaking out at every piece of horrifying information that comes across my newsfeed. Wouldn't it be nice if there were a way to keep up with family and friends, and even a bare minimum of news, without being forced to see every dreadful thing that the Facebook sidebar throws in your face?

Well, there is. It's called Sadblock, a browser extension that will hide all the sad and troubling stories in your newsfeed. It's a kind of digital-age version of soma, the opiate in Brave New World that makes people forget they're living under a repressive regime.

I tried Sadblock for a week for Facebook and Twitter (I look at Reddit only rarely). Here's how I'd grade it for blocking all the troubling stories in my newsfeed: A solid B.

For starters, you can choose what kind of blocks you want to enable: There's sadblock, for anything sad. There are also blocks for anything political, anything about climate change or certain celebrities, and a block for certain "trigger words", though I don't know what those trigger words were. You click "enable" on each one, and then, when you're on Facebook or Twitter, you can watch the Sadblock ticker counting up the stories it is hiding from you. Great, right? So why isn't it an A+?

Well, the stories do flicker across your screen for an instant, sending tiny jabs of news into your eyeballs: Tax reform. Roy Moore. Ivanka. You very briefly do see those stories getting gobbled up by Sadblock, bringing to mind a magician who doesn't quite pull the curtain fast enough, revealing a slightly drunk magician's assistant who thought she was on break. So the user is actively reminded that there are terrible stories out there, and that Sadblock is basically a high-tech way of sticking your fingers in your ears.

But, I mean, it isn't like the stories that come in front of you are decided by some legitimate, orderly system anyway. Sadblock does reduce what you see that's troubling, but it also inexplicably deletes innocuous posts and leaves a lot of distressing ones - a friend's funny post on irritating corporate jargon was nixed, but a GoFundMe for a child with a terminal illness was evidently not deemed sadblock-able. I saw the news about the guy who died because he couldn't afford his insulin, the heartbreaking story of a man with Alzheimer's and his loyal cat, and a lot about the Nazi profiled in the New York Times. But Sadblock hid tweets from me about my own stories, tweets in which I was tagged, presumably because they're about sexual harassment. On the other hand, I got to see a lot more recipes than usual, and a story about architectural oddities such as whispering walls.

So Sadblock works, but it isn't a total blackout. The news is still regularly awful, and frankly, if people are dying because they can't get insulin or parents can't access medical care for their sick kids, I actually do want to know. Do the stories make me sad? Sure. They also make me angry, and I don't actually want Angerblock. Anger is motivating. If you're blocking everything that's troubling, you might as well eat your dose of soma and take a nap. In the meantime, I'll stick with my weekend blackouts and Monday freakouts.

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Comments

    like the idea of Sadblock.
    The fact that that Sadblock flashes some negatives in your face is not a great problem to your mental health as it is only minimal, and some would say even healthy.

    I wrote this answer on Quora about the unhealthy excessive saturation of negatives in all media. It has 543 views and 5 up-votes.

    Here is the Question.
    What annoys you but seems not to bother anyone else?

    Here is the answer.
    Watching regular television news.

    I do not want to know what Trump says night after night.
    Nor do I want to hear about the insanity, that religion inflicts around the world.
    Or the son, daughter, or parents killed in a police car chase over petty theft.
    I would like to fix things but there is not much that I am capable of.
    “Life is life” and you know what they say “If you cant fix it, forget it”.
    I prefer to read the news on the internet where I can choose what news I like to read or not.
    • Medical and science breakthroughs.
    • Positive stories of courage, love, and determination.
    • Technology, and business successes.
    • Sports and Nature. etc.
    If you ever find you are struggling mentally I would suggest you start to follow your own news feeds. You cant block out the world entirely but you do not have to sit there every night listening to the same negative things again, again, and again.

    It’s just not good for your mental health.

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