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First Click: Stay sane by joining Google+ and adopting a pet speaker

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February 2nd, 2017

The last month has seen a massive wave of protest spread across the Western world, with thousands marching for their beliefs for the first time. These people will quickly learn the best way to demonstrate, but they should know that just as important as keeping informed and making a killer sign is the practice of self-care — of keeping your mind sharp and your body healthy so you can continue to support your cause. The wider internet has already provided a list of general ways newbie protesters can keep up this self-care, but as an enlightened Verge reader, you might need a few tweaks to the formula. Read on for my tips, and next time you’re feeling burned out by the constant drip-feed of terrible news, try to remember what you learned here today.

Join a social media service nobody uses

It’s easy to fall into bubbles and echo chambers on the two major social networking services of the day, flooding your ears with the same voices, and spinning yourself into a little tornado of outrage over each new bit of bad news.

It’s healthy to break the cycle and spend some time away from the socials, but going cold turkey too fast may cause digital whiplash. Instead, bridge the gap with quieter social media services like Ello, Peach, or Google+. Before they felt dead, but now these places feel like digital spas, offering oases of tranquility away from the roiling news cycle. Users can go whole weeks without spotting a new post, allowing you to keep calm while still scratching the itch to be monitoring something.

Try not to dawdle too long, though. Too much time spent in the social media doldrums, and you might find yourself desperate to reconnect Twitter’s unstoppable hose of stinking bullshit, or — worse — wanting to argue with an old acquaintance via Facebook comments.

Get a pet

There’s nothing like responsibility for another life to take your mind off your own predicaments, but dogs and cats can be expensive and smelly. Instead, why not pick up an Amazon Echo? They make far less mess than most pets, and are hardy enough to survive extended periods away from their owners, requiring the bare minimum in food and exercise. Even better, they’ll be able to talk to you within minutes of entering your home, unlike stupid babies who can take several years to develop the skill.

If you can, try to pick one up from a no-kill shelter like eBay or Craigslist. These Echoes have often been abandoned by their previous families, and may come with some unexpected problems (scratches, missing wires, a propensity for calling you “Bryan”), but win them over and they’ll be forever grateful to you for taking them in. Not only will you get the satisfaction of caring for another, that other will tell you where the nearest Mexican restaurant is.

Make time for hobbies

Your old hobbies may seem like frivolous wastes of time in this dark new world we’re entering, but doing something creative or calming can have a huge effect on your state of mind. If you like gardening, it’s the perfect time to plant some vegetables — they’ll be the new currency after society falls! Or if you knit, perhaps you could make some warm clothes? They’re sure to be needed by the people forced to spend days in airport security without access to food, water, or bathing facilities.

If you don’t have a hobby, now’s the perfect time to cultivate one! For example, in recent weeks I’ve developed a newfound interest in pulling a blanket over my head and rocking back and forth, muttering “this isn’t happening” as a form of mantra. I find I can do this for hours at a time, and it’s both relaxing and fun! Best of all, I’ve recently discovered many of my friends have adopted the same hobby, meaning we can talk about it and share tips when we hang out.

Get regular exercise

Protest marches move fast, and the slowest of the herd can get left behind, leaving themselves open to punching by neo-Nazis, Black Bloc-ers, or police officers. Try to keep fit to keep up! Deadlifts, squats, and other weightlifting moves will also give you the core strength needed to heave that fire extinguisher through the Starbucks window, but it’s cardio that will prove to be most useful in the long run. Remember: American readers should try to learn how to run in a zig-zag pattern in case they need to confuse someone’s aim.

Take your mind off the situation

Movies and TV shows should offer a convenient way to dodge the news cycle, but Hollywood’s recent obsession with dystopias has shown to be uncomfortably prescient, making true escapism tricky.

The Man in the High Castle was sold as an interesting thought experiment, for example, but the idea of democratic champion America slipping into fascism under the control of a wildly unpredictable overlord is frankly not difficult to imagine any more. The Hunger Games and The Running Man have stopped feeling like unimaginable breaches of human rights, and The Road and the Walking Dead offer helpful advice on what to do when society collapses entirely (TL;DW: cannibals have the most fun). Children of Men is about two years away from becoming a documentary.

Even Star Wars is starting to feel relevant, telling the story of a slow drift toward cruel autocracy authored by a sallow-faced maniac who prefers to hide in the shadows. It might be safer, then, to look back for your escapism. Perhaps to the bright and breezy ‘90s, or to a movie comparably cheerier than our current situation — something like Trainspotting or Misery.

Our IQs have risen 30 points over the last century, but the human body still wasn’t built to absorb 24 hours of terrible information, and you — as a tech-savvy news-consumer — are bearing the brunt of it. In years to come, scientists will probably look back at this time as a pivotal moment in evolution: the point where our brains either change to cope with knowing everything, all the time, or explode. In the meantime, it might help to imagine yourself as a pioneer, one of the first of our species to explore fascinating new trash-worlds — and don’t feel bad if you need some respite from the constant pain delivered by your various news feeds.