Are You an Outrage Addict?
My life and health improved when I decided not to take the bait
Whatever your politics, you have to admit these are stressful times—for the country and for the world. For the past year or so, I’ve gone around in a state of frantic anxiety, and I know I’m not alone. Here is where I’m not going to talk about which side I’m on. Doing so would put me right into that bubble where like-minded people scream their collective outrage at each other.
The bubble makes everything worse. It fosters the illusion that screaming accomplishes anything useful when all it really does is raise your blood pressure. But the bubble is hard to escape. In the few minutes I’ve been typing this, I’ve gotten two e-mails from my political party, goading me to take sides, stand firm and pony up: “Are you going to take this, Marcia? Donate now!”
In other words: don’t just stand there, do something. I’d love to do something. But I don’t know what. And being asked for money every five minutes is only adding to the stress.
I need a timeout. If I’m constantly angry, like everyone else in my bubble, I can’t see the situation clearly, let alone imagine a way forward. So I’m teaching myself, slowly, not to take the bait.
For starters, I never watch cable news channels. They have 24 hours to fill, which means they talk whether or not there’s anything to say. They’re always ‘breaking’ news because that’s supposed to hook me. I refuse to be hooked.
I do want to know the news, toxic as it is, so I look at the New York Times and the Washington Post online. I’ve worked as a journalist and trust their reporting. But I seek out perspectives that are different from mine. I need to know what smart people on the other side are thinking.
Facebook and Twitter are the biggest bubbles of all. When my FB friends aren’t showing me photos of their lunch, they’re trying to make me as outraged as they are. So I ignore them—and look at pictures of cats. There’s a kitten from Chicago named Puff who’s growing into a sleek behemoth on Twitter (@PuffMagicKitty). He and his cronies make the crazy go away.
It’s taken years, but I finally understand what internet cats are for.
Marcia Menter is a writer, former Senior Editor at Mademoiselle, Redbook and Glamour magazines. She is now writing for herself at Marcimenter.org