In the past 30 days, you have ingested more violence, pain and sadness than people living 100 years ago did in their entire lives.
100 years ago there was no global broadcast medium. Most people had access to a local newspaper, while a few could get some national news through more expensive (and rare) publications. For someone our age living in that time, they would have read about only a few truly awful things in their lives . . . and they wouldn’t have seen anything but what their own eyes had witnessed.
Take a look at our headlines from the current month, May 2013:
World – riots, wars, terrorist attacks
Nation – bombings, factory explosions, natural disasters
Local – murders, beatings, kidnappings
These are playing right now on our TVs, our computers, and in our pockets 24/7, in all their awful HD glory. Every horrific explosion, every drop of blood, every scream and wail and sob and extinguished life captured from multiple angles in sight and sound and perpetual commentary afterwards. It is the constant background noise of our lives.
Violence. Pain. Fear.
What makes me so disgusted with the whole thing is not even the fact that we can’t escape it, but that so few seem to want to. Humans have an appetite for tragedy, and media outlets of every kind are more than happy to serve it up. If it bleeds, it leads. This is why I don’t watch the news.
Have you ever considered that maybe we aren’t meant to carry the emotional weight of all this pain around with us every day? 100 years ago people did occasionally witness some horrible things. But for the most part these were events – brief, finite moments of human suffering, in stark contrast to the rest of their relatively calm lives.
You can call them naive or uninformed if you wish, but I submit to you that they carried only the burdens that were truly theirs to carry. We, on the other hand, saddle ourselves with the emotional devastation and pain of hundreds of people per week, watching from the front row as their lives are brutalized in one way or another. Yes, we feel for them, and we cry with them, and we do what we can to help them, and the internet has been amazing at helping us relate to one another and make a difference for others. I should know – I’ve spent years in that very pursuit.
But at my core I am more than a little worried that this hyper-connected way of life is hurting us much more than we care to admit. Now instead of enduring or witnessing one or two intensely personal tragedies in a lifetime, we get to tangentially experience one or two a week, each bringing out some of the same physiological and emotional responses, along with the requisite mental reframing that occurs in the wake of such events.
I feel like we are tearing our brains and bodies and feelings apart so much faster than ever before, and building up more scar tissue than we were ever meant to have.
It’s a dangerous game, folks, and we don’t know how it’s going to end. We are the guinea pig generation.
I want to know what you guys think . . . let’s discuss. How much do you carry?
(Image source: Pink Sherbet Photography)