Social Media Part Two: Desensitization by Information Overload

Note to the readers: this post contains content relative to a previous entry called Social Media.’ It is not necessary to read but may be of interest if this one tickles your fancy.

Scouring the internet for updates on current events and researching topics of discussion has become a second job. A major chunk of free time is spent scrolling up on several devices and tumbling down rabbit holes that never should be crawled through. The amount of information available has reached overwhelming levels and has led to some speculation on how it affects people in our society.

Thanks to modern advancements, staying in-tune with what’s going on is easier than clicking a button (we can ask Alexa now). We can add any number of media apps to our phones, tablets, and televisions which can filter content to suit our needs so we don’t have to go one minute without missing information or entertainment. It’s important to be informed and technology has made it much easier to do so.

Fake news and other poor sources of information aside, there is another downside to having access to all of that content at once, and all the time–eventually, we either become fatigued or controlled by unproductive rage over the problems around us. Our own lives are stressful enough as it is, especially in this society we’ve created where we hardly have a moment for pause. Add unlimited outside sources of stress, fear, anxiety, etc., and we get the anger or indifference that plagues our modern civilization.

Today, when I clicked on the first article of the morning, I found myself reading the first couple lines, skipping a few paragraphs, then moving on to the next article. This happened a few times before realizing I simply didn’t care what any of them had to say. The content being pushed felt repetitious and boring. That’s when I recognized the severity of what is at play.

I have read about, talked about, and listened to endless amounts of commentary about shootings, political damages caused by either party, social injustices, fat-old directors touching young actresses inappropriately, natural disasters, war, etc. All of that information overheated my brain causing me to no longer care, or at least, not care enough. I had become numbed, a spongy piece of tissue that was no longer capable of feeling, desensitized by tragedy and pain others experienced–I became a mindless robot whose only functions were to scroll and click.

Not long ago, instead of being numb, I was angry with everything that kept happening in the world, even though it never directly affected me. Most issues we read about in the news reflect a larger problem that requires our attention and concern (sexual assault, gun control–choose any popular topic), but we are limited to smaller scale solutions, most of which hardly have an affect (the changes are always gradual, never immediate). I’m certain that our inability to control circumstances beyond our reach causes a lot of our frustration and anger. We want the world to be better, no matter what we believe in, but we can’t do much as an individual to change it.

Part of the issue with being angry is it hinders our ability to convey our message to others in a way that’s not abrasive or off-putting. While our intentions might be good, our communication tends to be laden with swear words, projectile saliva, and a red face that does little to sway the minds of dissenters (check out our previous post for more on anger here). The message gets lost and the person opposite you probably thinks you’re a misguided jerk. Nothing gets done and no one’s lives get changed.

Becoming numbed to tragedies or pertinent information shows that we have begun to view serious events as too common, therefore, hopeless to try to correct. Or we go into denial, unwilling to accept that something needs to be changed or, we simply lose interest (chemicals are released & blocked within our brains during significant events, the more these things happen, the less our brain secretes, making us less likely to feel the same way we did the first time a similar event occurred–similar to how drugs cause addiction).

Both of these issues are undoubtedly a problem because we need to know about the wrongs occurring, how to help those in need, and what to stand up for, but we need to do it with our heads on straight and our ability to empathize intact.

So, how do we proceed from here?

Popular media depicts nothing but negativity in the world, undoubtedly skewing the way one views it through their personal lens. It is done by repetitively pushing the same content but packaging it in different ways so it seems new or relative, generating momentum for the next divisive/outrage-inducing scoop. They only want our views and will keep pushing the same information until we stop clicking.

Consider for a moment–if a person hadn’t heard about the daily mass shootings, that person likely wouldn’t be saddened by it, angered by its repetition, have to pick a side to argue for, nor be afraid of this happening to them. Those are the benefits to embracing ignorance, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The benefits of an informed society allows it to form an agreed upon consensus and help sway public ideology and interest in the right direction based on reasoning and empathy.

I recommend taking all media–the news, Netflix, Facebook, whatever–in moderation. It will allow us to communicate our opinions and disagreements in a fashion that is more agreeable and sincere. Let us base our generic understanding of the world on the people around us, making it easier to keep our empathy or concern intact.

Also, focusing on more than one problem at a time will drive us mad. Perhaps we should consider centralizing our focus onto one issue, whether it be personal or social, fix it as efficiently as possible then move to the next–we may get more accomplished that way. Otherwise, combining our own issues with the world’s and trying to correct them all at once might be overwhelming enough to cause us to lose our grasp on reason or morph us into compassion-less robots. We cannot tackle all problems at once, no matter how badly we might want to.

What do you think? Is there too much information out there? What should we do about it?

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