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Why is Everyone So Angry?

Two weeks ago we discussed how toxic fandoms can become, especially in online discourse. And in writing that blog, I realized there was a much bigger issue at play that I also wanted to address: Why is everyone so angry?

I feel like I’ve gotten trapped inadvertently in a global outrage cycle. For a while, I thought, “Oh this is just the product of immature tweens with access to the internet and too much free time.”  Then in 2016, I thought, “Oh, well adults seem to be doing it too, but that’s just because of the U.S. election.” But by 2017, I’ve realized that an Outrage Virus seems to have infected most anyone who uses the internet. Because it’s not just about differing political views or recreational trolling anymore.

Sometimes it feels like the whole world has gone mad.

For example, have you ever watched a funny video about a baby or a pet doing something silly? Invariably, if you scroll down to the comments on a video like that, there’s at least one person irritated at the baby’s parenting or the ethics of filming your pet doing said silly thing. And that feeds into other people who were just there for a laugh seeing that outrage and becoming angry themselves (because why can’t people just watch the video and enjoy it?)

And the cycle begins.

I am both fascinated and horrified by this cycle. It’s like how you can’t look away from a terrible car wreck.  You’re disgusted by the sight, but you also think you can figure out how it got to this point if you look at it long enough and you also want to know what happens next.

And cue my addiction to online comments.

Donald Trump seems to be the current king of the Online Outrage Tribe, but he certainly didn’t start it. Who did? Have we always been this angry and just didn’t have an outlet to vent? Was it an exponential but unsuspected takeover as we became more disillusioned with the world because of the rapid expansion of technology?

Is there a cure!?

I don’t have answers for you, unfortunately. But I think it’s important to recognize a problem/trend so that you can be more aware of how it’s affecting your everyday life. And therefore, take actions to try to counteract it.  I do so by trying to make more videos with an optimistic take on life. A positive light on the horizon of a super dark sea. But I don’t think you have to be making videos to be an influence. Whether you’re tweeting or Facebooking or blogging or texting or discussing something in person, trying to take a step back from that viral outrage and look at the bigger picture is so important. It helps to shake others out of their anger trance too.  It’s actually a lot easier to be a literal light in the darkness of these dangerous and angry times than one might expect. You simply just have to make an effort to not get swept up in the story sea of outrage!

 

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Fake News, Censorship, and Propaganda

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I’ve been thinking a lot about this outbreak of “fake news” running rampant on social media and goaded on by the bloodbath that was the 2016 election cycle and what it means for censorship as well as its influence on the seemingly ever-widening divide between liberal and conservative viewpoints. I have the unique place of not really being in a social media bubble. I grew up in a rural and very conservative place and lived there again for the last three and half years. But I also went to college at a liberal arts school and have cultivated a pretty diverse online friend group through YouTube. So Facebook has been a literal hell over the last year because I have the ultra conservative posts right next to the ultra liberal posts, and I’ve always considered myself pretty moderate–if nothing else just because I like to ask questions of both sides before making a decision. But let’s just say I’ve seen the vitriol that both sides have been throwing.

And I can’t even begin to tell you how many “news stories” I clicked on because of the inflammatory or interesting headline only to find myself halfway through and looking for the website name because it seems so far out of left (or right!) field. At first, I would just roll my eyes and click out of the tab because “Oh Crazy Uncle Joe Bob is posting nonsense again because he doesn’t realize what satire is.  But then slowly but surely, my entire news feed began to fill up with similar kinds of garbage from both conservative and liberal friends and “real” news stories blended right in because honestly, this whole election was insane. Donald Trump’s campaign, especially early on, was bolstered by these inflammatory headlines which were mostly true because he said inflammatory things.  So later in the election cycle, we were already preconditioned to these kinds of outrageous statements so the real and fake clickbait blended together.

Now we recognize that there’s been an influx of fake news, and whether it influenced the U.S. presidential election is really neither here nor there at this point, but it does raise questions about censorship. Because this fake news feels invasive and overwhelming. It’s made the Internet–a primary source of information for the majority of people today–feel sinister and unsafe (well…more than it usually does). You always hated being that poor sucker who didn’t realize the Onion wasn’t an actual news source and shared an article like it was real.  And now just going on Facebook feels that way. What’s truth? What’s a lie? What’s heavily biased opinion?

How do we stop the misinformation? On the one hand, there’s freedom of information and speech so we shouldn’t put regulations on news, right? Then it becomes censorship and the people who will be hurt the most are your average citizens and honest, hard-working news organizations.  You don’t want state-sponsored propaganda, right? How do you censor the fake news without vastly limiting the freedom of all news organizations and therefore create a propaganda funnel?

But if we can’t do anything to directly staunch the flow of fake news, we then rely on people to take the responsibly of vetting their own news sources.  And as a pretty critical reader myself, even I’ve gotten all the way through an article before thinking to look at the website name or the suggested ads for clues as to the site’s authenticity. Also, it’s pretty obvious from even mainstream news outlets like CNN, FOX, and MSNBC that most people fall into one bias or another. I’m sure very few people watch all three of those stations regularly (except for my dad, my dad likes to “know what the other side is saying” which is honestly, a pretty good tactic).  We want to hear or read news with a bias we agree with. That makes it easier to digest and move on.  It’s easier to call anyone who has a different bias than you “libtards” or “ignorant conservatives” than to actually sit down and say “Hey! I wonder why this person thinks this way? I wonder what they’re seeing and reading and hearing that’s influencing them that I’m not?”

I don’t want propaganda. I don’t want censorship. But I also don’t want fake news. Or so heavily biased “news” that it’s pretty much just opinion pieces. Biased entertainment–that’s enjoyable, but I hope that no one watching The Daily Show or Last Week Tonight with John Oliver thinks that actually qualifies as news.

But then we also live in a world where people (and mostly my generation) trusts comedians more than news anchors. They may be biased but at least they’re honest about it.

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Election Anxiety

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I’m pretty numb today. After months of slowly building anxiety–chest-tightening, tears to your eyes, can’t breathe kind of anxiety–I held this hope that it would finally be okay to breath out again. I even had a vlog planned for next Tuesday tentatively titled “Thank Goodness That’s Over,” but there was always the nagging fear in the back of my mind: But what if he wins? But it was better not to think that way because the anxiety was already nearly crushing.

But this morning, I had to wake up and deal with that reality. And it’s left me numb with few words to really say. I’ve read a lot of reactions today. I’ve connected with the rage and the sorrow and the despair. I’ve been incredulous at the tone-deafness of others. I’ve cried at the ones offering hope and support. I don’t feel the need to shout and scream and curse and demean those who feel this was 100% the right decision. I’ve very much understood the moral greyness of this entire election.  No candidate really seemed “the best” for America.  But the things that Donald Trump has said and promises to do, create in me a level of fear and anxiety to which Hillary’s potential didn’t come close.

What I really hope is that Donald Trump is every bit as much of a liar as he’s shown himself to be so far, and he does not enact or accomplish the many damaging things he’s promised.  But even if his presidency turns out to be far less sensational than his presidential campaign (which seems unlikely coming from a reality TV star), I mourn what his campaign has stirred up in the belly of America. The rage, racism, hatred, sexism, and prejudiced attitudes have now been validated. Even if that’s not why you voted for/supported Trump, those voices are the ones that were the loudest and continue to be now. It wouldn’t have been much better if Hillary won because the atmosphere has already been charged with these hateful feelings, but at least the person who inspired that energy wouldn’t then hold the highest office in the United States of America.

And what makes me most sad of all, is that many of you won’t understand why I’ve been plagued by anxiety during this whole election season. Why can’t I let it go? What’s wrong with me? Based on Donald Trump’s track record, he would call me “weak.” But mental illness is not a weakness even if it feels like it at a time like this in our nation.

For now though, I’ll leave you with a little bit of music that helped me calm the nerves today. I hope if you’re feeling anxious or despairing, this brings you a little relief. And if you’re celebrating that it gives you some insight into what your fellow citizens are feeling now.

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Why the 2016 Presidential Election is Already Over

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It’s October 19th and there are a little under 3 weeks left until the 2016 Presidential Election, but I’d like to suggest that the election is already over.  Why?  You might ask. Is this going to be one of those “Donald Trump has run himself into the ground so Hillary has already won” pieces? No, fortunately not.  But I do think the election is already over. We won’t know until November 9th who’s actually won, but for now, I consider it over and done. And besides the day of actual voting, I feel like we could not hear anything more about this election and be fine.

And why is this? Because as oversaturated as the media has been with the drama of this election for over a year now, we’re all decided voters.

In truth, I’m sure there’s a small group of people out there who legitimately haven’t decided who to vote for yet. (I saw someone just the other day start a Facebook thread asking her friends to give non-emotional arguments for each candidate because she was still undecided). But I don’t think it’s enough to particularly sway an election.  I think at this point, we’ve all mentally voted one way or another.

There are really four main categories: the Trump/GOP Supporters, the Hillary/Democratic Supporters, Third Party Voters, and Protest Non-voters. Everything I read, every political interaction I have, I’ve found people to be in one of these four categories. You’re voting for Trump or you’re simply voting for the Republican party even if you don’t like Trump.  Or you’re voting for Hillary or the Democratic party as a whole or you’re a “Never Trump-er.” Or you think a Third Party vote is better for your conscious or the country.  Or you disagree with all the candidates and feel that you can’t give your vote to any of them.  

We’ve all got different opinions about the election, but I would bet you anything that we’d all agree on one thing: that we’re so tired of hearing about the election and nothing in the next 3 weeks is going to sway us from how we’re voting. At this point, it’s really too late. We’ve already absorbed so much insanity that we can’t even tell what’s a lie anymore.  We’ll justify it however we need to feel comfortable following through with our decision.  This will make us seem stupid or ignorant or downright crazy to someone with a differing view.  But the thing is, we already feel crazy after all the nastiness and hatred and utter nonsense that’s occurred so it won’t feel too off-base anyway.

I guess the key is, please stop sharing “You’ll never believe what Trump/Hillary has done this time!” on Facebook. I mean, we get it. You don’t like X, Y, or Z candidate and can’t understand how anyone else is actually justifying their vote for them (I’m guilty of this too!), but honestly, it’s doing nothing but fuel our ever-burning internal fires of anger and irrationality.

I will be immensely happy when this election is over because at least (I can hope) for a little while that we might have some peace. (I also recognize that if either of the major party candidates win, the climate is such that either way, we’ll most likely be dealing with just as much anger, irrationality, and hatred as we are now).  But at least, for a little while, I can rest easy in the idea that people might stop telling me that I’m ignorant for voting one way or another. Or (more specific to my case) being afraid to let anyone even know what your voting preference is because you worry about retaliation and persecution.

I just hope that 2020’s election (or frankly, any future election) doesn’t feel anything like this one. I’ve had enough presidential election angst for an entire lifetime.