In case you haven’t been on planet Earth in the last 4 months, let me bring you up to speed with this news- we have been experiencing natural disasters in Biblical proportions. And I mean that literally, it is right smack out of the Bible. I’m totally appreciating that phrase for this post. Thanks, whoever made it up.
But that’s not what this post is about. It’s about what is happening to us via social media, and how the season of Mother Nature giving us a beat down, has brought me an epiphany. I’m going to share it because I think it might bring you some clarity and have more charity for your fellowman too.
So in the midst of these disasters, my friend, Carmen, makes a comment on FB that I won’t quote directly, but here is the essence: “I don’t think we were designed for this. To know of all the bad things happening at one time. It’s too much for our brains.”
oh. my. gosh. Carmen hit it right on the head.
I pondered this all day long. That is exactly why we are so overwhelmed. Our human brains are NOT designed to receive all of this information about all of these people, places and event at the same time.
When you go back in time, and let’s not go to far, let’s say the 1800’s to maybe early 1900’s. Picture your family that started out in New York City with extended family, let’s say you all just came here from Italy. You and your spouse decided to leave mom and dad and nonna and all the cousins and venture out west. Months later you settle in Nevada and are building a homestead. Back home in NYC Uncle Pete has died of scurvy (or insert your favorite disease that isn’t much of a problem today). You found out long after he died and was buried. Why? Someone had to write you a letter and get someone to ride a horse out and find you. You can’t get timely messages. That’s life.
So you grieve Uncle Pete well after the fact. And this is how it was for learning news of any great importance outside of your immediate area. Physical space effected time and your ability to know many things. Then fast forward to the telegraph. Now you can get your news the same day. Then move ahead to the telephone, even minutes-old news reaches you and so forth.
Today we can know what happened all over the world in seconds. Not only that, we can know it all in front of our faces in multiple windows or boxes so we see it at the same time. How is my simple brain supposed to take all of this in? Well it does but, how is it to be processed and at what cost to me?
We weren’t designed to know all of these hard, sad, scary things in their entirety at one time. We humans are overwhelmed and depressed, and stressed because of it. It feels like it’s all too much because it is. While our brains can technically receive the information, it cannot process our emotions and assign rationales at the same speed in which it can receive the information. I could quote some great studies here but I don’t have any, and don’t feel like looking it up for you right now, but we all know it’s true. We can multi-task, but we can’t multiprocess all of this. It is not natural.
So, the next day I call one of my sisters and share this recognition with her, and she takes it a step further. Teri points out to me that not only are we not designed to receive all that information at once, but we aren’t accustomed to knowing our friend’s initial reactions and thoughts on the scale which we do through social media platforms, either. She points out that in our youth, we might see something sad that happened in the world on tv with our family at night, and by the time we talk to our friends about it, it’s probably the next day at school. We’ve had time to process what we heard and saw with our parents, we got to sleep on it, have some new thoughts on it in the morning and at school we aren’t sharing our immediate thoughts anymore. We have processed thoughts and we get to listen to our friends reactions, thoughts and opinions and we take turns doing that because we are talking face to face. But when you have the immediacy that we do today, an event happens and seconds later we can read all of our friend’s immediate thoughts and reactions, in real time via the internet. These are often unfiltered, and without a chance to process, and sometimes not based on facts. Facts and details surface a little bit later as news unfolds.
We weren’t designed for that either! So now we have double overload- the hard events of multiple places coupled with everybody’s reactions all at the same time. It’s a HOT MESS. Then we spend the next couple of days battling it out on social media and trying to process it and you know, it rarely if ever, comes out good.
This brings me to my former post about the day of the Las Vegas shooting happened in front of Mandalay Bay. As I scrolled my FB newsfeed seeing all kinds of reaction posts, or none at all because it was just too much, what could we say about it? When I felt discouraged by negativity on posts attempting positivity and hope, but didn’t realize, is that what I was seeing was people grieving.
You guys, we were all grieving. In times of death when people are in shock or grieving we tend to be generous. We say stuff like, “Try not to judge your brother. We all grieve differently.” Don’t we? Sometimes we are baffled, “Why isn’t’ so and so crying? How can she go one like nothing happened? Why is she falling all out in the floor? Why is he laughing? It’s a funeral!!!! How could she say that?” In times of death we excuse questionable responses or behavior because we have learned that human grieving is complex and individual. Our grief methods are our brain’s way of protecting its psyche. Death IS mind boggling.
Unfortunately, we’re not translating this into social media reactions. That day, and any of the days of natural or man made disasters, we were grieving and we posted it. This, my friends, is unnatural. We don’t recognize that each other is grieving. It doesn’t matter that we didn’t personally know a victim. We each have a heart and it pains us to see human suffering, especially when we think it is preventable. We each have a measure of compassion, naturally, for our fellow citizens of planet Earth and lately, we’ve had such overload yet we are missing that we weren’t designed for all of this information, images, immediacy and grief. We need to cut each other some slack.
That’s why I didn’t call anyone out on social media whose responses I didn’t agree with or was offended by or whatever. We each grieve in our own way and we have had much to grieve about in Biblical proportions. And now that I understand that, I’m learning that I can practice charity and grace and give my friends a pass. I’m also learning that I don’t have to keep both eyes wide open glued to information outlets. Bad news has found me on its own. I can’t do much about most of it anyway. I can choose to practice self-compassion. I can choose to reserve my emotional energy for these people in my home I’m trying to raise. They need help processing and seeing reasons to live and that there is a way for them to enjoy the good things of this life. There are good things. There are silver linings.
I’m learning to be selectively engaged in this world and see that I must take it one bite at a time, instead of opening my mouth wide and allowing media outlets to shove it in my face and down my throat and telling me what’s good and what’s not when and how. That is the same thing all of you are dealing with too.