Information Overload: Why Social Media Makes Us Angry
by Amy Azevedo (A.W. Ryleigh)
It’s Saturday. You are having a good day. You have run your errands, paid bills, done your grocery shopping and are on your way home to grill hamburgers and spend time with your friends and family. You hear a beep on your phone and check it while stopped at a red light. It is a Facebook alert. You notice a reply from an acquaintance on a status you had posted earlier about the construction at the local theater. It is a positive post; you feel that the city needs an updated theater for the youth. The replier is attacking your post and accusing the county of putting money into unneeded construction and not helping the homeless instead. Your face turns red and before you know it you are pulling over to defend your stance. You put the phone down and drive home- you manage to carry the anger into your evening and share it with others.
A few days later, you check Twitter while sitting at the doctor’s office. You scroll through it and notice the negative stream of political debates. You move from politics to celebrities and notice how many posts about cheating spouses there are? Have you spent time with your wife lately? You are somewhat bummed when you put the phone down.
You notice Instagram has notifications while lying in bed. You are trying to get to sleep after a crappy week. Today your pipes broke in your bathroom and your hallway was flooded. You had to make a run to the bank to transfer money to pay the plumber. Your kid was bullied in his classroom at school and your dog stopped eating. You got into a fight with your husband about the dog eating too much human food. Tomorrow you will have to talk to the school principal and make a vet appointment. To top it off- your carpet would probably need a thorough shampooing. Your screen lights up and you scroll through Instagram to see smiling faces, new home purchases, job promotions, and your friends hitting the theater together. Were you invited? You put your phone down and try to sleep, feeling even worse about your week.
You check your Facebook and notice a trend. The news station is posting about human trafficking in your area, a gas station thief is on the loose, some woman just tried to microwave her poodle, and the weather outlook announces to be sunny with clear skies. You would love to enjoy the nice day outside…but decide to stay in and avoid the craziness that is local society.
Does any of this sound familiar?
You are a victim to the newest portal into other people’s lives — social media. This wouldn’t be a problem except that it affects your life too and usually, in a toxic way.
Over two-hundred million people in the U.S. have smart phones and even more than this have computer access to social media. Social media users have quadrupled in the last 5 to 6 years and are still on the rise. Problems with social media affecting lives in negative ways are becoming better known by mental health physicians, and counselors are discovering new patients every day with social media addictions.
Outside of the normal, and widely acknowledged, social media problems such as tunnel syndrome, false lives, manipulation, loneliness, and addiction there is another issue that isn’t talked about as much: the growing anger.
The anger issue is a big one and is becoming more noticeable. Too much information is putting us in overload and breaking us down. Is it necessary to know what goes on in the local news consistently throughout the day? Do people need constant weather and traffic updates? Is knowing what everyone else is cooking all week long giving us anxiety about our lack of meal planning and nutrition? Is it screwing with our family relation status to feel like a desperate and failing parent because “everyone” on Facebook has posted activities with their kids while you have been working like a dog all week? Is it healthy for people to feel like they can’t have an individual political, religious, or economical thought without being attacked?
It is important to realize that this barrage of information is creating anxiety and pressure in many peoples’ lives. Already society’s trends make us feel like we are average, fat, unhealthy, losers. “You may be skinny, but you are never going to be Taylor Swift skinny,” “You may be a good parent, but you will never be the parent whose gives their child a brand new mustang at the age of 15,” and “You may be smart, but you will never be as smart as your neighbor who just earned an honorable PhD for fence building.”
Social media creates a constant and desperate feeling to defend ourselves. It creates a feeling that there is a void in our life that we must fill with events and activities and, of course, show the world. It creates a self-consciousness that makes us feel we are not good enough no matter how hard we try. We pack our phones at the hip like protection against missing any moments that might be worthy of positing on social media. We are desperate to catch up, keep up, and pay up.
All of this creates an underlying anger. People become angry at defending themselves, at their friends and neighbors, at their local police, the mailman, the country, other countries, the political scene, etc. Social media has not only created an anger toward everyone and everything — but toward ourselves.
The dirty secret of social media is that it throws the users into a forced competition in which they have to defend themselves, and their actions, all the time; the users are forced to judge themselves against others. It creates uncertainty, shame, and emptiness; it creates a desperation to be present, seen and heard. But the information we are processing is too high. I always find it interesting when one of those posts pop up on Facebook showing a lonesome cabin by a lake. The posts usually state something like, “Would you live here for a year with no internet, phone, and television, for 100,000 dollars?” The amount of replies is using in the range of 84,000 and growing. The replies are usually positive because, let’s face it, who doesn’t want 100,000 aces. More importantly, if you take time to read the posts it is sad and also somewhat encouraging how many people admit that they would love to escape social media and their addiction to their screens. Perhaps, most people realize the amount of anger they are carrying deep within all because their lives have become a kind of media event to entertain others; their opinions have become bait for the internet sharks; their anxiety is out of control in the race to be “social media worthy.”
There is something to be said about simplicity and realizing that social media robs the simple, content life of its virtue, leaving us with uncertainty instead.