I try to be very intentional about what I choose to speak out on. I am a woman with a LOT of opinions on a lot of things, but I prize relationships over my opinions so I don’t speak up if I fear it will hinder authentic relationship-building.
That being said, I have spent the last 5 days silently observing the frenzy taking over my newsfeeds. It has deeply disturbed me, though maybe not for reasons you would think. I’m ready to speak up now.
We are currently caught up in a viral response system. We are tangled up in an age of outrage, and nobody is immune.
As a result of this age of outrage, everyone is REACTING to everything, and nobody is RESPONDING to anything. And there’s a physiological reason this is occurring.
But before I explain that, here is what I mean by the age of outrage:
After a skillful performance that was a dazzling and empowering celebration of Latin American culture at the Super Bowl halftime show, my newsfeed blew up in criticism. I’m not surprised by much anymore, but that caught me off guard. I didn’t expect anything different from performers like Shakira and Jennifer Lopez, so I didn’t understand the outrage and shock. (Side note – I also spent most of the show dancing along and trying to do whatever they were doing, so I didn’t scrutinize every movement either.) Did it bother me that a 50 year old has to strive to look like a 25 year old to stay relevant and desirable? Maybe. But again, I didn’t expect anything different from the entertainment industry.
What affected me the most and what caused me to silently observe, hesitant to say anything at all, is that everyone seemed to be REACTING based on their own perception of the show, based on their own life stage and season, based on their own personal triggers. And so many of these reactions and post fed MORE posts, and shares, and back and forth commentaries.
For this reason, I am NOT going to share any more of my personal views, as they are multi-layered and will cause division and have nothing to do with the reason I am writing this. Now, I could talk about clothing choices and unfortunate camera angles (seriously – was J Lo’s gynecologist filming???) but that’s not what I want to get at here.
The whole reason I’m writing this: in the same week people heavily criticized the blatant provocativeness of the halftime performance through reactionary posting, even MORE outrage has been expressed at the way Speaker Pelosi recently tore up the president’s speech. Her very REACTIONARY dramatic paper-tearing performance.
Imagine that – A reactionary government official, reacting to a reactionary president, elected by an entire nation of reactionary people.
Do you see the irony?
I’ve said this for years, since 2016 to be exact. We got the president who represents us best. Whether you love him or not, he is YOUR elected official. He is mine. His finger-pointing and inflammatory tweeting and name-calling are not unlike what I see on my Facebook page every. Single. Day. By Democrats. By Republicans. By you. By me.
This is the age of outrage. I can be outraged over the outrage, and join right in, or I can dig deeper and examine WHY I am outraged to begin with.
That’s where brain health comes in.
Unfortunately, most of us live in a constant state of stress. We are overworked, tired, emotionally drained, sleep-deprived, and burned out.
Physiologically speaking, when we are living off of stress hormones, in a constant state of fight or flight, we simply CAN’T use our prefrontal cortex to connect, show empathy, and make good decisions. I believe this is what shows up in our social media conversations, our reactionary posts, and what we see happening from the top down in government. (I imagine Speaker Pelosi is pretty stressed right now, wouldn’t you?)
So we find ourselves in the middle of an entire nation filled with people who lash out, fire off quick rants via the safety of social media, instead of responding thoughtfully and with empathy. I can only assume, if this is what is happening online, that this is also pouring out into our day-to-day relationships. I know for me, I am quick to snap at my husband or kids when I’m stressed about other things.
In fact, I’ve been so bothered by social media and all the outrage I’ve noticed this week it has actually caused me to become distant and annoyed with Richard. Weird, right?
We must do a better job at handling our stress and our triggers. I can’t control what goes on during the Super Bowl, or the impeachment hearings, or what my friend is going to say to shame people who were entertained by Shakira and Jennifer Lopez, but I can control my RESPONSE.
Meaning, I can learn to manage my stress. Maybe that means stepping away from Facebook for a while, maybe that means going to bed earlier, getting outside more, or spending more time meditating on Truth.
Maybe that means that every time I see someone make a rude, reactionary post on Facebook I just picture how stressed out they must be and empathize with them.
Instead of getting caught up in the age of outrage, let’s flip the script and make it the age of engage. Let’s dig deeper and get to the root of our disconnection, engaging with and acknowledging our own beliefs, triggers, emotions, perceptions, and learning more about how they shape us – so that we can stop reacting, and start responding.