The journey of someone just like you, on a journey just like you

Category: Purpose (Page 1 of 8)

The Stupidest Thing I Did During the Pandemic (Reading Too Much Media)

I’ve done some stupid things, but this is one of the stupidest. Like many people, I found myself consuming and reading too much media.

The stupidest thing I did during the COVID pandemic was reading too much media
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

The COVID pandemic has been one of the generation defining events of our time (although the Russia-Ukranian invasion is definitely up there). Millions of people died, international travel stopped, domestic travel was restricted, people were sealed in their houses, vaccines were mandatory, and the impact on world economies is still not yet known.

At the time of writing, the CEO of Moderna has indicated the belief that 2022 is the year for COVID to become endemic, if it hasn’t already in some parts of the world.

This has made me reflect on the stupidest thing I did during the COVID pandemic. I did already write about 7 Good Things To Come Out Of COVID Season (For Real), but I thought what’s something that I didn’t do very well? And I worked it out.

Like most people, I ended up reading too much media.

Well, we had to, right? In my country, like in many Western countries especially, we had daily updates at 10am on case numbers, changes to restrictions, places we could or couldn’t travel, and every other update under the sun. And like many people, I found myself tuning into not just the state premier’s announcement, but the health minister’s update, the Prime Minister’s update, and other federal updates.

In Australia, they would sometimes give you as short as 6 hours notice to head back home otherwise you could be locked out of your state or even your city for two weeks, so we were all tuning in constantly for over a year. In general, I’ve always kept my ear pretty close to the ground on current affairs and always want to know what’s happening.

But then something happened. It wasn’t enough for me to just read the government updates. I needed the media commentary. I needed the explatory studies being raised to the surface. I needed the pros and cons of vaccination from the news sources I usually trusted. Which then turned into the pros and cons from the news sources I don’t usually check (NB. I’m pro-vax). And their contempories.

And then, maybe worst of all – what the comments sections had to say on all the issues. It started as finding out that sometimes the comment sections would list a restriction change or a venue closure that hadn’t been publicised elsewhere at that point in time.

And then my mood started to change. I needed to check the video update as soon as it was available. I needed to see people I didn’t know fight about the benefits and disadvantages of certain virus management strategies. I needed to read all the things people were saying about the government. And sometimes I would get so into the debates that I would find myself getting physically angry, anxious, or upset.

And then I realised – I had been reading too much media.

In reflecting on this discovery that I was reading too much media, I had a few big thoughts coming out of that. Here they are.

Outrage capitalism has (almost) replaced “sex sells”

We all know sex sells. It always has, and it always will. I’ve written about that reality and the impacts of that several times.

But I’ll always remember my friend Aaron describing what was happening in a single phrase – the media was no longer using clickbait, it was now outrage-bait.

There are a variety of sources on this information but a conservative estimate puts video and media consumption up at least 60% due to the pandemic. Nielsen puts it up between 52 and 215% depending on your country. That’s staggering.

And he was right.

Media companies and advertising agencies now even advise their media clients on the power of using shock or outrage marketing.

You don’t even have to look very far to see it happen. Headlines are set up to deliberately trigger people, especially outlets like The Guardian and The Daily Mail which REGULARLY use CAPTIAL LETTERS on ALMOST EVERY post. Headlines are designed to start fights, with most of them even deliberately using words “outrage”, “backlash”, “controversy”. Even though they’re the ones who want you to be outraged or to fight about it!

Then there are media outlets like BuzzFeed, Vox, MTV, and other pop culture oriented sights which intentionally start fights, from vaccines to religion to sexuality to Black Lives Matter and racial tensions.

You and I are the product, my friend. Just look how heated the comments sections get on posts about any of these topics. I know everyone jokingly posts that Michael Jackson popcorn meme as they’re just there for the comments, but the reality is that’s how companies are now making big money.

They’ll even try to manufacture outrage – I’m calling out specifically the Murdoch brand of media such as 9 News Australia or Courier Mail or, which have regularly featured articles which are just people going through Twitter for controversial opinions and posting it as if it’s news.

Or think about how many times you see a post about Flat Earthers. They want you to debate the views of a small minority simply because they’ll get you fired up and drive their engagements up too.

This is what news has turned into, people.

And guess what else happens? Those comment sections drive clicks and shares, which means the media companies make more money.

Which in turn, means they keep making more posts like that. In reading too much media, I found that I was buying into this outrage capitalism.

Don’t kid yourself: social engineering is real

Of course, there is a more insidious side to media. Not only does reading too much media influence and incite outrage and us vs. them violence and conflicts, but it also controls and directs cultural and behavioural trends.

We live in a world that no longer relies on conservative philosophies or religious documents in the way it once did – but don’t be kidding yourself that nothing took their place. I would strongly argue the media is now filling the void of priests and books and churches and directing people’s thinking, and they’re succeeding.

I always remember hearing a quote from the vice president, Robert Pittman, of Warner speaking of MTV on how he viewed the platform. As far back as 1982, he said of MTV, “At MTV, we don’t shoot for the 14-year-olds — we own them. We will reach 90 percent of them in any given household.”

Did you catch that? The head of programming said he believed he owned teenagers. MTV continues today and has significantly broadened its content offering, mainly known nowadays as another BuzzFeed. More topics like manspreading, racial tension, and sexual diversity are the topics of the day.

All the while you are consuming this content, keep in mind the owners of this company believes he owns you. And based on the behaviour of media outlets in general, this is not a viewpoint exclusive to MTV or Warner companies.

The impact of media on group think is measurable. The New York Times even did a significant feature measuring the shift in views on government, family, and relationships that the Murdoch empire has absolutely shifted.

I remember when I was in university that a fully free newspaper was being given out to everyone called MX. It was a cutdown version of the Courier Mail essentially from the same people. Everyone would read it, and it was pretty good for a while.

But then around that time (2006ish), there was a dramatic shift in news in general. We used to have a “news” section and an “opinion” section in our news, with the news section presenting the exact facts without (much) bias, and the opinion section providing commentary. However around this time and even now, these sections are now completely joined – and many outlets no longer even hide fact this is going on.

I hadn’t questioned the idea of a free newspaper that a company was spending millions of dollars in creating, printing, distributing en masse and marketing, but I probably should have.

If a government did this, we would call it propaganda and an insult to democracy. But when a company does it, we lap it up.

As a parent, I have been particularly interested on what the current drive of media is doing to our young people. Here are some standout facts I’ve discovered about Generation Z – the generation who has grown up during this media shift:

  • Gender theory and fluidity is one of the most topics regularly covered by news outlets. Recent Gallup studies from 2022 have shown the impacts of this with 25% of Generation Z identifying as non-binary. This has been on an upward trend, and as conservative commentator Matt Walsh stated, if these numbers are even half true, this represents a dramatic sexual revolution unlike anything previously observed in history. Even Alfred Kinsey put his famously optimistic estimate at 10% of a generation, and more thorough studies used to put this at about 4.2% even just a few years ago. Social commentators on both the left and the right credit media and societal factors in this shift.
  • Pride has always been a big deal, but even left-leaning LGBTIQ+ activists cite their frustrations with Rainbow Capitalism. This is the tendency for many big organisations (think Body Shop, Levis, Bonds, as well as these media outlets) to heavily push their support of Pride any chance they can get with the agenda of getting more consumers – Generation Z identified as the prime target, and all of these brands doing very well at these times of year.
  • Generation Z was not born during the times of slavery or apartheid, but the media’s constant stoking of racial tensions for clicks and views is increasing the perception and experience of race issues around the world. Some university studies have highlighted that only one racial narrative is being perpetuated throughout media currently and affecting Gen Z’s own experiences, and even more concerning, is that media is intentionally inciting conflict between Black and Asian-American experiences. I personally recall seeing how quickly any post about race would turn into Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter vs. Blue Lives Matter vs. Asian Lives Matter vs. Black Wives Matter, and the numbers of comments and engagement were through the roof.
  • Generation Z is now cited as the most depressed and anxious generation. Research showed they were the least interested in COVID but the most anxious and concerned about it. 90% of Gen Z’ers report high stress levels (wow). I read a powerful piece on Psychology Today highlighting the real factors involved in this increased anxiety and they put it on a few perspectives pushed on them by the media – “You are fragile”, “If you feel it, it must be true”, and “Life is about us vs. them”. Such perspectives create a generation dependent on the very information that is also poisoning it.

I’ve known a few people in advertising and marketing over the years, and they had regularly highlighted to me the practice of social engineering. This is also an increased push in the research on marketing in not just targeting the insecurities of the audience, but pushing to adjust societal beliefs for corporate objectives. News sites and their social media teams are all over this in even which comments and viewpoints they promote or remove.

Media and marketing corporations are undoubtedly fighting for your what you should believe. If like me you were or are reading too much media, you might want to stop and think about where your current belief systems have come from.

Who are you letting speak into your life?

I recently wrote about the question of who are we allowing to teach us about sex. It seems there are so many views about it nowadays, no wonder it’s hard for people to work out what they should be doing in their own relationships.

But beyond sex, it raises a real question about who we are allowing to speak into our lives about anything in general. I know I found myself being affected by reading too much media especially in mood and thinking. It reminded me of how important it is not just to think about what I believe, but where I got a belief from.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important for all of us to be aware of what’s going on in our world. I think it’s way worse to live in a bubble or under a rock and not know the very real issues people are facing.

But with companies paying bllions of dollars for their right and ability to influence the way we think and behave, we’ve gotta wonder who is winning the war for our minds.

I think truth is something that can be found. But unfortunately many people get all their truth now from incredibly biased, unbalanced, corporate sources. Balanced too far one way to the expense of all perspectives on an issue, or even replacing truth about who they are with opinions from companies with an agenda.

Let’s make sure we’re building our house upon the rock and not on the shifting sand of commercialism.

And more than that, I would encourage you to think about how you are contributing to this culture of outrage. I previously did a deepdive on a reality I continue to observe, that Our Obsession With Outrage and Being Triggered is Destroying Society. Are we more known for what we are for, or what we are against? We should be people who are demonstrating an exemplery and a copyable lifestyle, not just living lives constantly tearing down without displaying an alternative.

How about you? Were you reading too much media during COVID? Or before or after? How much should we allow the media to drive our thinking and behaviour?

It’s Easy To Be An Absentee Father, Be A Dad Who Stays

I’ve learned it’s really easy to become an absentee father, but if you can be a dad who stays, you can make a profound difference.

Be A Dad Who Stays
Photo by Josh Willink from Pexels (and #DadGoals)

I recently went back through time and revisited my My Top 10 Favourite Movies Ever. Even decades after watching it, one of my favourites is the hit 1997 Jim Carrey film Liar Liar. It’s about a divorced dad who continually lets his son down with empty promises to the point that his son makes a birthday wish meaning Jim’s character can’t lie for 24 hours.

Hilarious in practice, but it is kinda sad in reality.

In truth, there’s a whole bunch of movies in the 90s about absentee dads and many movies like Liar Liar with an attempted message at getting dads to stay, or at least be more present in the lives of their kids. I found the same thing when I was doing a list of Christmas movies or even just thinking about a bunch of older movies and shows I have enjoyed in the past – think Jingle All The Way, Mrs Doubtfire, Click, or even that savagely poignant episode of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, “Papa’s Got A Brand New Excuse”.

These and many more aimed at dads in particular with a plea to be present and accessible to their children.

And then as time went on, when TV stopped trying to convey as many overt family values or messages, it became less about being a dad who stays and more about the people who had been left behind by dad’s decisions trying to live with it.

I’ve worked in the IT industry for 15+ years to this point now. And it’s an industry plagued with a lot of people in this boat of choosing career over children, overtime over playtime, respect in business over respect in the home.

Granted, our industry often does necessitate longer hours or super late nights given society’s dependence on technology for mission critical purposes, but it became obvious to me when I was younger that many people – dads in particular – would work far more than they needed to, especially on salaries and projects where all that overtime didn’t amount to a whole lot more actually being delivered.

And I remember as a young man thinking wow, I’ve known so many people growing up who wished their fathers were around more. Some cases a family breakdown meant dad didn’t have full custody and opportunity, but even then you would see some dads still working crazy hours unnecessarily even on their weekend or evenings with the kids. And here they were, hiding in their computer.

Men can be really good at hiding. I think it’s because we actively compartmentalise our lives, whereas women (generally) tend to address everything at the same time. I think this is really handy for certain types of decisions where we need to face things in a more staggered approach – but the obvious downside that TD Jakes points out in He-Motions is we put things in their box, and we just leave it there. Festering. Unaddressed. Not receiving our attention or effort.

That’s okay when it’s a stressful project at work, around the house, or relationally that needs a more measured approach, or for a temporary period of time. But when it’s our children that go in that box, we’re not the dad who stays, we’re the dad who gets hit with the “absent” label.

And then I became a dad myself. And I realised something personally of myself rather than just theoretically that I had seen and researched about absentee fatherism in others – that I too could very, very easily hide from the pressures of fatherhood in my work, my serving, my hobbies, my outings, my whatever.

That instead of being available to help when I knew I could, that I could oh just work a bit later. Or not be available that weekend. Or go out for hours at an important time when I could be helping.

And it was such an equalising realisation that being a father is very confronting and difficult. And I could see in those times when those ideas to stay hidden came up exactly what has happened in so many homes previously. I will say I feel like I have done my best to be as present as possible, but I’d be lying if I said there hadn’t been several times when that thought or pressure had built up internally.

It is really, really easy to be an absentee father. We have the opportunity and the societal “acceptance” that we’re not always going to be available. Because so many fathers before us weren’t, right? That’s just what dads do. All the jokes tell us how distant dad is. All the biographies and complicated backstories of real and fictional people tell us that so many others have been in that boat. We all know dad is either at the pub, the golf game, or the office when his son or daughter are at their dance recital or even just for playtime.

But to be a dad who stays… I think that’s where real power is. Possibly even the greatest power we have as men is to buckle up and be present for the whole ride.

Even in today’s society, many secular and religious studies have all confirmed that when dad is absent, everyone suffers. Particularly the children.

Stats from the United States over 2021 a consistently measured increase in absentee fathers being a factor in increased substance abuse, higher incidences of mental health issues, increased risk of going to prison, and higher risks of school dropouts and poverty. And this is not the first year these observations have been made. I’ve read the research of the authors of On Becoming Babywise which showed a strong correlation between dad’s presence in the early years and behavioural issues later on way back in the 80s, and even some more recent statistics from the last few years confirm this to be the case.

Canadian research found that brain development is altered in the early years by the absence of the father. Children of fatherless homes were found to be 5 times more likely to attempt suicide, and 32 times (!!!) more likely to become homeless or runaway.

You can research this for yourself in any country, and the echo chamber of research, stat after stat, story after story, resoundingly confirms that dad being absent is devastating. I still am haunted by the fact that the last verse of the Old Testament is that when the fathers refuse to turn their hearts back to their children, a curse is present. I think these stats confirm just how dire it is when it’s like that.

It can be really hopeless when you realise how devastating a problem we have.

But I take it as a real encouragement and a recogition of just how serious and significant our role and contribution as fathers is.

In a world where it can be hard to feel like you’re really making a difference, by our presence and participation we can improve our children’s brain development and set them up for strength and greatness for their life ahead. Yes it’s utterly terrifying to think how bad the stats are when we aren’t present, but conversely consider how much of an improvement you can make in the lives of your children by showing up and staying present.

But if it were that easy, we’d all be doing it. Here are some factors I think play into the challenge.

The law and custody. American research puts marital breakdown as the leading cause of fatherlessness making up 30% of those fathers considered to be “absent”. In Australia I have talked to so many fathers of various ages even recently who are trying their hardest to be present in the lives of their children in a joint-custody situtation but the law makes it very difficult being geared against men. If you’re in this boat my brother I would urge you to keep fighting to be present, even if isn’t anywhere near as frequent as you would like to be. The data shows us that your sustained presence makes a significant difference, and is worth fighting for.

Embrace, and have a sense of, purpose. I’ve written before looking at even more of the stats around the difference it makes in a man’s life when he has a sense of calling and purpose about him. Even moreso as a father. Even if you’re unsure about every other area of your life, recognise you are called to and are capable of make a marked difference for your children. More in Why Men Need Purpose, Direction, and Income.

Don’t hide. Man I’ve never felt that internal pressure to hide from the stress and pressure of life more than I have since becoming a dad. But I want to be a dad who stays. Myself and all of us need to make sure we’re finding coping strategies and strength that don’t involve us being out 4-5 hours a night and never being present with our children. Not saying you can’t hang out with the boys or keep up an active social life, but as long as the whole family is coming with us on the journey overall.

Toxic masculinity. A real man stands by his kids. We can be so worried about how we appear to people who really don’t care about us at the end of the day. It’s more important to be who we need to be with the people who really need us the most. More in Men and Rape Culture

Deal with the crap. All of us have big issues to deal with, and fatherhood is extremely confronting. It pushes every single big button you have – your relationship with your own parents, how you view your competence, your ability or confidence in earning income, the traits about yourself you never want to pass on to others, and especially how much you love or don’t love yourself. Anger, substance abuse, porn addiciton, lack of self worth – all of these can make being a dad who stays very difficult when you always want to run away from yourself. It’s not too late to start working through these things.

Prioritise your relationship with your partner. A Brisbane psychologist told me a few months ago that it’s very typical in her decades of counselling in cis marriages that when life gets tough, the mum in the relationship will throw herself into raising the child and the dad will throw himself into his other pursuits. You’ll see this all across much of the Internet when dads die inside as their relationship dynamic changes. More than just the dynamic change, much of this can occur around marital angst – be it emotional, sexual, or big disagreements that you haven’t resolved. I would encourage anyone in that boat to seek professional help and/or the help of a support network and friends. I continue to see it and I firmly believe one of the worst things we can do for our marriages is to hide away from others. We all need to live in the light. More thoughts and experiences in 10 Ways To Minimize Fights In Marriage and Love and 8 Things That Kill Your Marriage (If Left Unaddressed).

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My Top 10 Favourite Movies Ever (Revisited)

Everyone has their favourite movies, here are most of mine – these are my top 10 favourite movies ever.

My Top 10 Favourite Movies Ever... for now
Source: New Line Cinema

Now here’s a topic I haven’t revisited in over 5 years. On Sunday night, a bunch of friends and I were running through a lot of our favourite movies. Some people cited the old classics, whilst others favour modern films. It reminded me that it’s high time to revisit that list and see how things have changed over the years.

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Christmas Reminds You What You Wish Life Was Like

It’s the best and the worst part of the festive season – Christmas reminds you what you wish life was like.

Photo by Alex Urezkov from Pexels

Well, here we are again. It’s Christmas season, the shops have been craaaaaaaaaazy this year, the Carols are blaring, and all those December movies are in full swing.

And amidst all the idealism and the feeling of perfect portrayals when it comes to friends, love, family and generosity, it brings with it a sucker punch of a reality check unlike no other time of year.

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For The Ones Who Scroll Facebook But Never Post Anything

I see you there. You know who you are. The ones who scroll Facebook but never post anything themselves.

For the ones who scroll Facebook but never post anything

When my wife and I announced we were dating on social media, I think the Internet broke. It’s very encouraging to have the support and love of your friends and family. I think the posts clocked up 700+ likes in a matter of hours.

I remember thinking, wow, people are really cool. I also remember thinking, wait, I haven’t seen about 50 of these people post anything in a while.

A similar reaction when we got engaged, what a happy day that was. And put up our wedding photos. Our first married Christmas photo. And then when we announced our pregnancy. All a similar response.

And then when our child was born, how great was that. And when she was one month old. And two. And three. And omigosh what a cute baby photo. Or a super cute or cool photo of my dog. And…

Hang on a second, there they are again. And again. Within minutes. Sometimes within seconds. I thought these people never used Facebook? And on that person’s baby photos. And on that public page. And boy oh boy on that article. And on that meme about the cow and how relatable it is to sisterhood and/or Bitcoin investing.

You know who you are. The ones who scroll Facebook but never post anything themselves.

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6 Things That Can Distract You From Your Purpose

There is no greater exhaustion than living dissatisfied. Here are 6 things that can distract you from your purpose.

6 Things That Can Distract You From Your Purpose
Source: Disney Pixar

I think it’s quite well chronicled that burnout is a devastating state to live in. When you’ve overexerted yourself physically, emotionally or spiritually, it can take quite a while to recover from it. In fact I know several people who never really have been the same since a stint with burnout. If you’re in that category I’ve been absolutely loving the writings of Carey Nieuwhof in this space – highly recommended.

But I think even more prevalent than this sort of exhaustion is the exhaustion that comes not from doing too much, but doing too little of what you should be doing. I believe all of us have a purpose to fulfil on this planet and I’m yet to meet a person who doesn’t have some sort of awareness that they were meant for more.

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5 Reasons You Keep Losing Friends and Close Relationships

Have you ever wondered, “Maybe it’s something I’m doing?”. Well, maybe it is. Here are 5 reasons you keep losing friends and close relationships… and how to fix that.

5 Reasons You Keep Losing Friends and Close Relationships (and how to fix that)
Photo by Liza Summer from Pexels

“You say you want it, but then you complain when you get it!”. I stared her straight in the eyes as this frustrating conversation was underway. She had been very very adamant that this was what she wanted, but her actions weren’t lining up. It was so confusing to have her telling me and everyone else who would listen that this was what she wanted, but when she was being provided with it, she wasn’t taking it.

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Why Are Men So Immature? (Revisited)

You want him to be a man but he’s content to stay a child, or perhaps you feel like all you know are little boys. Why are men so immature?

Why Are Men So Immature?
Source: Paramount – the immature manchild is a common trope of cinema indeed

Did ya miss me? It’s been quite a while since I’ve done any writing. The reason is because I’ve recently joined the Dad Club, with our daughter being born and I’ve been focusing all my time on making sure that’s been strong. It’s been a great experience and looking forward to our new life ahead.

But before Dad life became official, I was having some chats with some people about some blogs I wrote a loooooong time ago. One of them was about the perception that I had heard from a lot of women that all the men they know are fully immature – so old in fact that was written on a previous writing platform before Walking The Shoreline. I did revisit a more general version in Why Are People So Immature? and I thought it was high time to revisit this topic given there are a lot of people still struggling with this question of masculine maturity, or lack thereof.

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The Most Beautiful Places I’ve Ever Been To (So Far)

International travel is still off the cards for now but the world is still full of amazing sights. Here are the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to… so far.

The most beautiful places I've ever been to... so far
New Zealand’s South Island approaching Mount Cook, definitely one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to

Hard to believe it’s been about one year since Coronavirus shut down international borders. It’s amazing how much globalisation, the Internet, and fantastic airline services made the world so connected. Nowadays the digital highways are getting the most traffic but we still remember a time when travel was freely available and people were posting their great travel pics from different countries.

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Feeling Alone At Christmas Is The Worst Feeling In The World

It’s a time when you’re supposed to be happy, but a nightmare when you’re not. Feeling alone at Christmas is the worst feeling in the world.

Feeling alone at Christmas is the worst feeling in the world
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Or at least it’s definitely up there.

Christmas is a time where there are many images of joy displayed throughout the world, bombarded into our eyes and minds from every conceivable angle. Smiling children, singing carolers, joyous gift recipients and very content and full feast goers. The colours are bright, the music is upbeat, and the mood is entirely festive.

All this can be quite hard when you don’t feel any of that on the inside.

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Was 2020 The Worst Year Ever? Sowing in Famine – 2020 In Review

It’s cool to hate on this year, but is 2020 the worst year ever? Here’s my annual review of the year that was – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Was 2020 The Worst Year Ever?
Mr Walking The Shoreline going Walking The Shoreline with the fam in October

With a final few weeks to go until the start of a new year (seriously!!), the excitement is palpable. All the memes are out in force to pretend 2020 never existed, to flush it out of our lives, to be the year that never happened. A lot of things went wrong in the world this year, and it’s hard to blame a lot of people for feeling this way. I think that’s why everyone’s singing January, February, Quarantine, December.

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