The case for optimism

Breathe in, breathe out

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We’re all going just a little bit crazy here, aren’t we?

It seems like half of America is about to be in a mental health crisis – if not already – believing the other half to be crazy, wrong, unpatriotic – you name it.  What happened to pragmatic optimism?

But what’s really behind this? Sure, some anxiety is understandable – when a pandemic has taken over our lives and election ads are everywhere telling us what to fear, it’s hard to not feel a little anxious. But what I’m seeing is something closer to hysteria – and I think that hysteria is driven by our social media feeds.

Think about it. When you see friends posting about politics, or the pandemic, on social media, are they telling you what to fear? Are they telling you you can’t trust anyone, or that people are lying to you? Are they telling you things are bad, very bad, historically bad?

Our social media feeds are biased toward posts like this, because they get a reaction – an emotional reaction – and entice us to respond, whether we agree or not. And the more we engage, the more of it we get. Americans’ social media use has spiked during the pandemic, along with our anxiety.

In reality, most of us fall somewhere in the middle, politically – as seen in this chart. And most of us are silent online – not posting emotional pleas, highlighting bad news, preaching fear.

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