Though the occasional funny or heartwarming video will be featured on my Twitter feed, the majority of Twitter content is anger based. People angry (and rightfully so) with the latest political news disgracing America, people annoyed with co-workers, people upset about the disappointing conclusion to their favorite TV show, people arguing via rapid fire tweets about the right way to make mac and cheese, people frustrated with the traffic or the subway or the airline that has screwed up their travel plans. I understand that as a social media tool, Twitter is used as an outlet for many of its users to not only connect with real life friends but to share a stream of their feelings and thoughts with the world at large (the “Twitterverse”). However, the way people have used Twitter as an outlet for rage has played a part in what I believe is a societal shift that has blurred the lines between what angers us and what entertains us.
Twitter is just one part of this phenomenon. One could also make the case that news outlets, namely Fox, have helped create the anger as entertainment trend. In fact, being angry seems to be the main prerequisite for the majority of the network’s hosts and guests. Viewers tune in knowing that something they agree with or don’t agree with will be argued about with no real depth or care, solely for the purpose of entertaining the masses while leaving enough time for ad breaks for life insurance or arthritis medication.
In a country and time when every song, every film, every Instagram post, every Tweet, every purchase and every interaction can be viewed under a political lens, nothing is safe from scrutiny. Although scrutiny is certainly warranted and necessary, when it is done in a medium that is not conducive to complex, nuanced thinking and dialogue, it becomes an unproductive mud slinging contest. Now, put that mud slinging contest on popular news networks and social media sites and they are simultaneously given the space once reserved for respected investigative journalism and that for memes. It’s no wonder modern society can’t make up its mind between what angers them and what entertainments them.
The myriad ways in which the modern human with any access to television or the internet is relentlessly being broadcasted distorted and stressful news is not only morphing the way individuals think about what is considered entertainment but what is even important to to them. This is something I’ve experienced first hand when I began noticing how friends of mine preferred to consistently bring up the latest upsetting trending news topics in place of more enjoyable and far more complex ones. I began to see group slack channels and text chains be inundated with drawn out speculative conversations about wars, legislation and economics. It isn’t that I simply can’t or won’t participate in conversations about current events or the news, it is that I find it difficult to say or think about anything interesting that can come of one dimensional, unimaginative , fear-mongering sound bites and headlines.
So what can be done about this non-stop deluge of anger and fear-inducing news? We should demand less noise and more vital content that is necessary for us to be well-informed citizens. The key word is WELL, not just informed. We should not look to the media to give us all we need to know and find other resources that enlighten us and create the space for purposeful dialogue around current events, politics and issues impacting the world we live in. We should demand more of our fellow citizens who use social media platforms as a place to start online slap fights for fun. Additionally, we should demand more of ourselves and of those closest to us, by asking “does this actually matter, or is it just what’s trending at the moment?” Pay attention to your world, pay attention to language, pay attention to intentions behind language, pay attention to what you consume as fact, pay attention to what you disregard, only then will we finally stop letting the news take us on rage fueled mental/emotional roller-coaster rides which many of us confuse with a good time.