Archives for posts with tag: the outrage machine

Some mornings, particularly on weekends, I sip my coffee and catch up on the news of the world and my Facebook feed before I settle down to write. On those mornings, I also fight “taking the bait” and I do battle with invisible forces hoping to leverage the power of outrage to get my attention, and others hoping to get their hands on whatever loose change may be laying about. I’m getting better at maintaining some balance in the face of emotional triggers of all sorts as I scroll through images and words.

The need to build more resistance to emotional manipulation, for me, is pretty serious. My injury and my PTSD tend to result in a level of emotionality generally (the TBI) and volatility (the PTSD) that can make me very susceptible to emotional manipulation, emotionally evocative language and images, and it has been difficult to manage over the years. If I’m being honest, I can’t say that I “managed” it all all, with any skill or noticeable success until I started practicing mindfulness – and omg, do I ever need practice, like, all the time, every day. So human. I learned a lot about how far I’ve come, during this past election year, and I also learned a lot about how far I’ve yet to go. So… I keep practicing. I keep finding my way along life’s journey, one step at a time. The news thing is tricky; I love to read, I consume content at a high rate, I love language… and I’m a highly emotional reasoning being. I needed something helpful to rely on…

I ask myself questions that seem to help sort it all out (for me).

  1. Does this matter more to me than it did when I read the last article about this? If so, am I merely having an expected reaction to repetition?
  2. Can I verify it is 100% utterly legit, fact-checked, references cited, real no bullshit data or information?
  3. Who profits from this? (…and what does that say about the content?)
  4. Is the content original? (If it’s creator content reshared/reposted, is the creator credited?)
  5. What is my purpose in sharing this? Is it necessary?
  6. What am I going to do about it? (If this is action-worthy at all, why not just take action and share that in my own words?)

I think, generally, most of my friends also read the news – no need for me to share it to ensure they hear the latest from the same mainstream sources most of us are reading. It’s redundant – which means it is repetitive, which results in higher believability whether it has a shred of truth or not. Not helpful. If I’m angry about it – do I actually want to share that experience?  If I feel moved to share content solely on the basis of seeking “solidarity”, sharing the experience of being outraged or angry, or looking for community… wouldn’t it make so much more sense to reach out to friends directly, human being to human being, get together over a coffee, or hang out together, and really talk, really share? Sure, we’re all in this together… but using Facebook to reprogram our culture seems to be taking us all to some very strange and fairly ugly places.

I’ve gotten sucked into Facebook time and again, and wasted hours of precious limited lifetime – not connecting with friends and deepening those relationships, either, just reading the news, reading memes, scrolling through duplications and repeats, and generally filling my consciousness with the cognitive equivalent of junk food. I’ve added to the noise, reposting articles that evoke an emotional reaction without closely examining why, or even whether the content is highly accurate, and unbiased. You know what it got me? What it got all of us? The 2016 election outcome. That event has really changed my thinking about what purpose Facebook serves in my experience – and what it can do, and how it affects my quality of life, generally, as an application – because that’s all it is. It’s an app. It’s up to me to use it well, and use it wisely, and be mindful of the results I see, and the consequences of my actions.

Facebook – another opportunity to be mindful. Who knew? 🙂

I’ll hop down off my soapbox. It’s a gray, cold, wintry Saturday morning. WordPress notes that it’s been 4 years here, sharing, practicing, walking my own mile. My coffee is done. The morning has begun. Thanks for being here.

Today is a good day to live life in real-time, with real people, in physical space. I think I’ll go do that. 🙂

It’s morning. I’ve already gotten sucked into reading the news and found myself being baited into reacting to this or that with, of course, outrage. The media stokes the reactive side of our nature, because in reactions are ratings – and consumer spending. It’s that simple. I let it go, again.

I found myself baited into outrage via Facebook a short time later. I let it go. Again. It’s too early to tilt at windmills. I haven’t even finished my first cup of coffee. I pull myself free, and make a point to sign off. It’s a good day for a digital detox. I’ve no desire to let my devices dictate my day, or my experience. 🙂

Well, sure. This.

Well, sure. This.

Twice more I find myself pulled into emotional reactions that aren’t really anything to do with me, directly; I am reacting to the outrage machinery on which the media relies so heavily. I let it go. Again. And then again. I sign out of more stuff. I sip my coffee and redirect my attention to my own experience, right now – this one, here – and take note of a couple things I’d like to get done today, for me. It’s a short list, and I smile at it, wondering if today might be the sort of day that nothing on the list gets done… I’ve no interest in being pinged on by the world, frankly, and our messy tedious ongoing social issues are commonly of a sort that are willfully chosen, inflicted on all by a few, and entirely easily resolvable – if we chose to do so as a body politic. That seems unlikely to happen today. Perhaps instead of fussing over all that, I simple get started with the weekend…maybe head to the trees for the day, and put some miles on my hiking boots?


I take some minutes to consider forest trails…

Date night was called off last night, due to my traveling partner potentially being contagious; his Other is sick. I definitely don’t want to get sick while I am likely to do interviews. It made sense to change our plans. I enjoyed a quiet evening, and got a good night’s rest. Both are experiences I enjoy. I miss my traveling partner. I smile thinking of him, looking forward to the next time we’re together.


Where will life’s journey take me?

Yesterday I was in a lot of pain. Today less so. The reduction in pain makes everything seem easier. Yesterday I couldn’t bend low to empty the dishwasher. Small things. I feel eager to hit the trail, this morning and realize that I’ve made my decision about the day, without being aware that I had; I’m already distracted from writing, from making my list, from drinking my coffee – even distracted from the outrage engine working tirelessly to get my attention on The Next Terrible Thing. I’m plotting my journey, staring intently at a map unfolded in my lap… keyboard, blog post, world…all but forgotten.

It's a good day to walk on.

It’s a good day to walk on.

I think today I’ll head for the trees. 🙂

I am sipping my coffee quietly this morning, and scrolling through my Facebook feed. This morning I am aware that in about 30 minutes (the time it took me to ‘catch up’ since last time I looked at Facebook) I have built ‘a snapshot of the world’, complete with outrage, disapproval, offense, defense, humor, ire, and an occasional ‘what the fuck?’ moment. Well, it gives the appearance of being ‘complete’ – and it comes to me ‘endorsed’ by my friends, so it must be accurate, too? Right? Hardly.

Some time ago I made a point of cutting way back on media consumption, primarily because revenue-driven sensationalized media reporting of current events was actually doing me emotional damage and preventing me from finding contentment and joy by keeping me emotionally aroused and my PTSD symptoms simmering in the background all the time – no rest. The ‘easy’ part – and it isn’t easy – has been turning away from obvious ‘news’ media outlets; I have no cable connection, no network television access (by choice), and I stay away from ‘news’ sources most of the time (and when I do read news, I seek out the sources that are most strictly vetted, and often from foreign sources for an outside perspective). Still… there’s Facebook. I maintain a lot of distant connections with family and long-time friends through Facebook. It’s harder to avoid being exposed to the outrage machinery as I scroll through my feed – and I’m still so vulnerable; these are people who matter to me, what matters to them must also therefore matter to me… right? Ouch.

I’m learning. It takes time and practice to refrain from reading the articles. Many times the headlines are sufficient to determine whether there is implicit – or even explicit – bias in the source material, or the writing (sometimes just checking where the article came from is enough). I practice applying the same rules to items linked through Facebook that I do any article I might happen upon online. If a topic or event looks noteworthy, or of sufficient interest to read further – I leave Facebook, Google it, and read about it from the least biased most vetted best cited sources I can identify – instead of the linked article (reading the linked article only if I intend to comment on it). It’s time-consuming – and I don’t always have time for that. I will note that not once have I ever actually regretted not reading about some tragedy, or some political maneuver, or some socialite’s faux pas, or… you get my point, I’m sure; living life is far more engaging than reading about the latest outrage.

Outrage is profitable. Outrage generates a lot of revenue, and a lot of voter interest. Outrage is also damaging to the person experiencing it in the moment, and long-term lingering outrage takes a long-term lingering toll on our contentment and quality of life; it colors our entire experience. I’m just saying – when you allow your heart and mind to be taken over by outrage, whose interests are you actually serving? It’s a worthy question. I am answering for myself by walking on – I don’t need it. Your needs (and results) may vary. 🙂

In 30 minutes on Facebook I am easily able to form an impression of the world – the whole world, colored by the opinions of my friends list. I like my friends – else why would they be there in my friends list, right? Even so, I don’t think there’s much value in seeing the world only as it is limited and filtered through their impressions, their outrage, their filters and biases and then calling that ‘the world’. It’s a rather narrow view. A proper snapshot of ‘the world’ would be complete – and random, and messy, and unexpectedly exotic – and mundane – and quite probably with very little outrage going on at all, in any one moment or place, generally. My traveling partner has made similar observations recently, and it’s on my mind; how do I best make use of this awareness to increase my quality of life day-to-day?

There is power in perspective, and in choice.

There is power in perspective, and in choice.

I think I will start the new year a new way; I will refrain from linking news articles in Facebook (knowing that topics of interest will reach my friends in other ways from other sources). I will refrain from reading them there, too, since there are other better sources for news when I wish to ‘get caught up’. I will make more time to connect with people directly about things that matter to us in a positive way, instead – real conversations with human beings. I can’t shut down the global media outrage machine, but I can sure refuse to be a cog. 🙂

Today is a good day to be the change I would like to see. Today is a good day to use some verbs. 🙂