This morning, before I had my first sip of coffee, I had learned the following: (1) my friends’ daughter was sick, (2) another friend, more distant, was pregnant, and (3) that legislators in my state have been embracing all sorts of policies I find harmful. That’s right, within ten minutes of waking up, Facebook had provided me with opportunities to feel sadness, joy, and anger. Contrast that with ten years ago, pre-Facebook, when I would have spent that time… staring out the window, probably. Honestly, what did I do while waiting for my coffee to brew before I had Facebook?
I’m not suggesting that ten years ago was better or worse and I’m not making the argument that I need to unplug and be more mindful in the morning (though, that might be true). I’m just pointing out that my emotional life is very different now than it was ten years ago. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. have provided me with opportunities to feel things I never would have felt ten years ago. I wouldn’t have known that my friends’ daughter was sick until much later in the day. Because the pregnant friend is a more distant relationship, I likely never would have learned of her pregnancy. And, though, I would have known of the harmful policies eventually via traditional news, I wouldn’t have been exposed to them so soon or opinion after opinion, comment after comment, and quote after quote.
I’ve pointed out before that anger emerges from the interaction between a stimulus, our psycho-physiological state at the time, and our interpretation of the stimulus. When we get mad, it’s because we interpreted a stimulus as negative, unjustified, blameworthy, and catastrophic. One of the things social networking brings to this equation is additional stimuli. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram bring us additional opportunities to feel anger simply by providing more stuff to get angry about. We read stories about our legislators, see pictures of our exes, and learn about the opinions (some we don’t like) of our friends and family. We are bombarded with information we never used to have or at least didn’t have in the same quantity… sometimes before we’ve even had our first cup of coffee.