Stream of Light

Social Media Anger and Anxiety in the Midst of Unrest

My friend Daniel Pryor is a really good counselor. Daniel often points out that we experience anger and anxiety when things seem out of control; when we feel as if we have no power to change the situation and when our value is called into question.

This week has been full of some rather big events that touch on the issues of control, power and value. We’ve seen the terrible news of thousands of lives lost in the aftermath of an earthquake in Nepal. We’ve watched and experienced the city of Baltimore erupt in riots and racial unrest. Accompanying these events is the magnified trauma of our 24 hours news cycle. As a result, there is a lot of anger and anxiety being expressed throughout social media. There are lots of people trying to reconcile their frustrations with their lack of control, value and power.

There are many ways we try to gain control of overwhelming events. Sometimes we give simplistic answers and reasons for the chaos around us. Other times we rebuke those who do not see things our way or are unwilling to follow our way of solving the situation. The more complicated the situation, the more differing the options, the more we try to control the narrative. If we can’t control people or stop the madness, we become increasingly anxious or angry. This expresses itself in all those strong Facebook posts about what’s wrong with the world and what’s wrong with those people and what’s wrong with everyone else we cannot control.

When we confront situations that seem out of our control or power, we have a habit of either fighting against it or withdrawing. Some take to social media to fight against the injustices, while others withdraw from the internet all together. Some of us vacillate between active engagement and active escapism. Often these behaviors have less to do with what’s wrong with the world and more to do with how we are processing those wrongs.

I believe we should all try our best to engage in any activity that brings hope and healing to the world. This certainly means healthy social media engagement. It also means having intentional, genuine interactions off the web. Interactions where we can hear the voices of each other and express love and care in practical, physical, tangible ways. A walk, a conversation and a handshake can go a lot farther in transforming our world than another tweet of righteous indignation.

There is much good and hard work to be done. When we see anyone harmed or hurt, we should feel deeply troubled. Injustice of any kind should make us uncomfortable and unsettled. All of us are responsible to help. Each of us should genuinely look for ways to bring healing to our communities and society. Even so, I am also personally trying to be mindful of why I am experiencing anger or anxiety this week. I am making sure that I don’t try to overcome my anger and anxieties by attempting to control others. Ultimately, our Creator gives us the value we need to be at peace when the world is beyond our control…..which is most, if not all, of the time.

Stream of Light

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One Response to Social Media Anger and Anxiety in the Midst of Unrest

  1. Dan Behrens (@danieljbehrens) April 30, 2015 at 7:23 am #

    good discussion this week especially. lots of visual, visceral-type, news coverage. it seems that such things become a “vehicle” of sorts for which anxiety quickly leads to anger leading then to very poor decision-making.


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