August 18, 2017

"We make the assumption that if people are aware of how urgent and frightening and scary these issues are, then people will automatically translate that into ‘Oh my gosh, what kind of actions can I take?'"

"That’s just simply not the case," says Renee Lertzman, "a psychologist who studies climate-change communication," quoted in The Atlantic in "Constant Anxiety Won't Save the World/Spreading fear and worry about issues you care about on social media can lead to burnout rather than action."

There's also this from Scott Woodruff, "the director of the anxiety and obsessive-compulsive treatment program at the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy":
The anxious mind and the worried mind can manage to bring back topics over and over again. It is possible that people can really spend quite an amount of time every day worrying about world events.... Excessive worry can lead to fatigue, lack of concentration, and muscle tightness. The interesting thing is the fatigue and lack of concentration are the opposite of what people are trying to promote when they’re advocating for vigilance.... [P]eople get overwhelmed. They burn out and short-circuit and turn their backs on the very issues that they care most deeply about.
I'm watching this phenomenon every day on the internet. And I really am vigilant, having blogged daily for 13+ years, with genuine, unbroken concentration. I observe the anxiety of others and how they spread it in social media (and mainstream media), but I experience the opposite of anxiety for some reason. I think I'm often saying calm down, it's not so bad. Why is everybody cranking everybody else up?

One answer is: It's not everybody. It's just everybody on the internet. There are huge numbers of ordinary people who go about their business, working for a living, caring for their loved ones, experiencing real-world pleasures, and doing constructive, concrete things that can be done.

Facebook could be about friends sharing views into their life in the real world. That's why I'm on Facebook. My Facebook feed is currently cluttered with posts expressing alarm about Nazis and slavery. Oh my gosh, what kind of actions can I take? The only "action" required is to express, again and again, just how terribly much you oppose Nazis and slavery. There isn't even any challenging thinking involved. What can you say other than the obvious, that Nazis and slavery are wrong? Well, you can put some serious effort into denouncing people who are not stating the obvious with sufficient intensity or who are not stating the obvious in a statement that does not contain additional statements.

This intense policing of the virtue of others — it's not even virtuous. But that's not where the article in The Atlantic goes. Cautioning against burnout, it recommends more self-care.

42 comments:

Mr. D said...

Don't think we're not keeping score, brother.

Unknown said...

Agree 100%. Most people on the Internet have become addicted to noise and not living their life. People not on the Internet are living their life.

Great quote on back of car last week, "You have one life. Live it"

John Lynch said...

It's ok to not care.

MayBee said...

This is so, so, so good.

Rob said...

Many of these overwrought people need to hear the age-old advice: take a high colonic.

Matthew Sablan said...

The internet is a reflection. Look at who and what has risen in popularity. Milo. The WaPo openly calling for violence on the insufficiently woke. Moderates getting drowned out in both parties. The internet magnifies the loudest and angriest voices.

MayBee said...

I think its too easy on the internet to get addicted to outrage.

I know that's why I got off Twitter. Twitter isn't interesting unless there is something going on.

Now I Know! said...

If you believe this Ann then why do you not find fault with Donald Trump who is the king of cranking everyone up?

Now I Know! said...

Cranking everyone up and trying to keep himself the center of attention is all that Trump does.

Matthew Sablan said...

Also, shouting fire is a great idea, when there's a fire. It is only when there isn't a fire that it is bad.

Breezy said...

MSM does most of the cranking up.

David Begley said...

CAGW leader James Hansen spoke at Creighton. He gave his speech with the mushroom cloud slide. A young woman asked if her generation was going to burn up or get flooded. Hansen replied that her generation was going to survive but they still had to act now. This woman was genuinely worried. I was appalled by his scare tactics. .

MayBee said...

In most cases, there is no urgency.

Adam Corolla was talking the other day about the video with the woman walking down the street getting "hey there" and wolf calls. For a few days't was on the news and everyone had to fight about it.

And then it went away, and nothing changed, and nobody care.

Sydney said...

This is so true. The current hysteria du jour would not exist without the internet. I am not sure if the MSM drives it, or if they are driven by the internet. Every time one of these mob hysteria crises pops up, I lose a little more respect for people I thought I knew to be thoughtful and just. Maybe they are more thoughtful and just in real life, and the internet lets them unleash their inner demons too easily. Or maybe, as you say, they feel the need to advertise their purity.

mccullough said...

Someone's making money off it

KittyM said...

"I think I'm often saying calm down, it's not so bad. Why is everybody cranking everybody else up?"

These are two separate thoughts.

This first is, " it's not so bad." That, Professor Althouse, is your opinion. If by "not so bad", you mean the situation in America at the moment, then many, many people simply disagree with your assessment. If you mean, "it won't get so bad", then all good people are hoping that you are correct. But neither you nor I nor any of the commenters on this blog can *know* this.

"Why is everybody cranking everybody else up?" When people are nervous, they share their thoughts and fears with others, whether online or off. That is completely normal and healthy. In fact, there's plenty of "cranking up" here, when commenters talk about what they think is going to happen if "lefties" get their way or when the discussion turns to the dangers posed by BLM and antifa.
"
You call it (rightly) free speech, debate and open discussion when it leans politically in your direction, but "cranking up" and "anxiety" when the themes discussed are those your disagree with, Doesn't this contradiction seem wrong?

The most intense "policing of the virtue of others" that I personally experience happens on this blog, when a commenter such as myself, who is (rightly or wrongly) perceived to be left, dares to express a criticism, however respectfully put, of Trump as president. Then I am often scolded to stop "virtue-signalling", I am told that I can't possibly think the things I think and I am often told how I should better express myself.

jwl said...

I am middle aged male and I have avoided social media like the plague because I think it is for angry and neurotic people to hang out and make themselves crazy. I have to read some twitter feeds for work and I have no idea how anyone could have decided to join, it is just many shouty people doing their thing.

John Lynch said...

Not care > self care

rehajm said...

An epidemic of stay home from school ailments. Why can't anyone drop dead of a heart attack? Now if people started dropping dead- that would make people pay attention.

wild chicken said...

I got burnt out decades ago worrying about nuclear war. I'm not going to worry about anything like that anymore. It's despicable that the libs are hell-bent on convincing kids that the future will be awful. The media worked us boomers over too. The world was always gonna end. I had many nightmares.

It easily becomes an excuse to escape into drugs and fantasy, when what we need are faith, hope and charity.

Earnest Prole said...

I appreciate your effort to form a hypothesis on this, but I believe this kind of anxiety has little to do with the internet per se. My father is blind and therefore spends no time whatsoever online, yet he experiences constant anxiety about the state of the world based on what he hears on the radio. For him, politics have become a kind of substitute religion, a battle of right versus wrong and black versus white, instead of merely a clash of interests between shades of grey. Every single event on earth is viewed through this lens, and it is indeed exhausting because while this kind of politics offers the moral clarity of religion, it does not offer religion's redemption and peace. It's life in hell without the possibility of heaven. I see the same thing today on the left. Something has changed in our politics; the internet may have exacerbated this change but is not the root cause.

Bruce Hayden said...

I find it interesting that the more a narrative breaks down, the shriller its proponents get. Making up in volume of screaming what they are losing in volume of the facts. Logically, I would think it should be the opposite, with the volume of noise being comparable to the amount of danger. And maybe for new dangers, that is the case. But, ultimately, a group of people are going to figure out how to profit from some perceived danger, and they are mostly the ones who get so shrill when the danger that has enriched them starts to be eclipsed by other dangers, endangering their ability to benefit from it, and their place at the public trough.

Rusty said...

No Now I Know. He's the king of cranking you up.
You let him do it.

Birkel said...

Rusty,
He lets him do it because Trump's famous.
Trump can just grab him by the heart strings.
They just let him.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The overload of MIS information, hysteria over the smallest issue, constant drumbeat of white bad, destroy the confederates (who had already lost the war), constant thought policing, puritanical witch hunts for the wrong thinkers, firing people and ruining their businesses for daring to have opinions....etc etc etc........................all has made me numb to the point that:

I simply don't care about it anymore. I tune it out. I am bored. There is no resolution that is going to be made. There is not a solution that isn't going to involve violence and death.

It has also made me realize that it is a futile waste of time and precious breath to try to engage with some people, including your own relatives.. Walk away. Hang up the phone. Block them from being able to access you. Do it for your own sanity. Theirs is already compromised and gone.

It has also made me adamant that I WILL fight back if necessary. All this chaos and violence from the left has made the old adage....forewarned is forearmed more true than ever.

Earnest Prole said...

Continuing: If you see politics as primarily composed of interests then you can negotiate and compromise with the other side; if you see politics as a clash between right and wrong, good and evil, then by definition compromise is impossible. The old communist chant was "Which side are you on?" Apparently we're all communists now, in that politics has become our secular religion.

Curious George said...

"Oh my gosh, what kind of actions can I take?"

Sign an online petition seems to work. I mean it must. Right?

Feste said...

I have learned to love the bomb.

Birkel said...

I think selfies against kidnapping in other countries by armed forces is the best way to stop bad acts.

EDH said...

Climate change is important to those who can afford beachfront property, and many of them have decided the following people have to pay to assuage that fear.

There are huge numbers of ordinary people who go about their business, working for a living, caring for their loved ones, experiencing real-world pleasures, and doing constructive, concrete things that can be done.

stever said...

This is why I've come here for these 13 years. Obviously just because its easier to get ideas out, does not mean those ideas are any better. A lot of stuff is just crap and I appreciate an intelligent and sober filter.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gahrie said...

If you believe this Ann then why do you not find fault with Donald Trump who is the king of cranking everyone up?

Trump is a symptom, not the cause.

Real American said...

hurry up and act now or the world in 100+ years will be .001 degree warmer.

They're snake oil salesmen. don't trust them. you can live without what they're selling.

Gahrie said...

The most intense "policing of the virtue of others" that I personally experience happens on this blog,

Wow..that makes you an extremely lucky person. Most of us have to deal with it in our real, everyday lives.

Birches said...

Maybe they are more thoughtful and just in real life, and the internet lets them unleash their inner demons too easily.

This is why I stopped using fb to keep in touch with my real life friends. Their online personas made me dislike them even though they are fine people in real life.

Night Owl said...

"One answer is: It's not everybody. It's just everybody on the internet."

It's like living in two worlds: One where we go to school, and work, and shop, and everything is fine and friendly-- (others' mileage may vary, but my interactions with people are mostly cheerful and civil.) And then we get on the internet and everyone is foaming-at-the-mouth angry. It's weird. People who come across as Dr. Jekyl in person can become Mr. Hyde on the internet.

I struggle with the question: Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Is it good for people to be releasing all the toxic emotions in a place where no one gets physically injured, or does doing this just make us angrier, and end up radicalizing some people into violent acts? Maybe some of both? I don't know.

As for me, just as I avoid too much sun to prevent getting burned, I don't do facebook or watch cable/tv news at all, in order to limit the amount of hysteria I get exposed to.

Bad Lieutenant said...

""That’s just simply not the case," says Renee Lertzman"

TL,DR: This whip is broken. However shall I beat my fallen horse?

Jim at said...

@ KittyM:

Good lord. Get over yourself.

Rockport Conservative said...

"One answer is: It's not everybody. It's just everybody on the internet."
And it is mainly those on twitter that get the media all excited and tweeting. How many people would ever hear of a tweet if the media never got involved. Of course, Twitter is part of the media so it is self preservation to assume every one cares what is tweeted there.
I read a lot of blogs and have since they started. Many bloggers are also twitter happy if it suits their persuasion. I like blogs like Althouse where actual thinking is going on, not just repeats of tweets.
Thank you Ann Althouse for your blogs.

The Godfather said...

Back when "global warming" (as it was then called) first became a thing, my attitude was, I hope it's not true that global warming will cause global disaster, because there's no way we're ever going to be able to prevent it. That gave me a sense of peace. The hysterics have forced me since then to spend some time learning about the issue, and I'm now satisfied that "climate change" (as it is now called) will not make the world unbearable during my lifetime, or even that of my grandchildren. So, again, peace.

In contrast, during most of my life (I was born in 1943) the world was threatened with destruction from nuclear war. The anti-nuclear folks put out some pretty good propaganda about why nuclear war was a bad thing (do you remember "The Day After"?), but again the problem was, What can you do to prevent it? Then, along came Reagan and "Star Wars", the derisive term his opponents used to describe his plan to develop a defense against Soviet nuclear missiles. So we COULD prevent nuclear war with the USSR, and because we could, and because Reagan and Bush handled the collapse of the Soviet Union with such skill, we haven't had to worry about it for a quarter century. And because we now have defenses against nuclear missiles we have a chance to face down the Norks.

So my conclusion is that we are better off if we can face and defeat challenges, than if we constantly whine about the terrible threats we face. Keep that in mind as you prowl social media.

Leigh said...

@ Birches, you have company.

Donald Trump, Jr.'s tweet, this evening:

"The most interesting measure of a friend is the difference between their personal texts to you and their FB posts."