I Take Comfort in Kerfuffles


The culture of outrage is worrisome to me. We jump too quick without checking our facts, rally numbers in the hundreds or thousands in minutes, and react disproportionately to the offense. Calming voices tend to get shouted over, or worse turned upon in tribal cries of “if you’re not with us you’re against us.

The torches and pitchforks sail along my river-of-news at least a couple of times a day on Twitter and Facebook. Every brand manager worries about the day those torches and pitchforks are for them; because of an ill-chosen word or lapse in judgement in content selection or bizarre confluence of events that made your brand today’s target.

My understanding of the human brain*, is that it is wired to continually assess its environment and identify danger. The rustling in the bushes that either signifies a wolf is getting set to pounce upon you and yours or that there is a slight breeze. Our brains are great big pattern recognition devices continuously taking on information and throwing it through the safe/threat filter. We huddle around listening to negative gossip and reading the salacious headlines and tuning in to the breaking coverage, because anything unsettling and worisome satisfies your brain’s need to identify a threat in your environment.

But that deep down need to watch for danger doesn’t understand the difference between here and now vs elsewhere; it doesn’t understand statistical likelihood. The rare occurance of a shark attack off New Zealand becomes an uneasiness to take a dip off the shores of Jersey. We get nervous to fly after word of an airline disaster despite risking our lives a hundred times more so in the drive to the airport. We take a single adverse affect out of a million doses to be reason enough to avoid life saving treatment.

And in the lack of actual real danger, we hyper-inflate the smallest of concerns to be real and immediate threats. The rustling in the bushes may have been a mouse instead of a wolf, but we’ll sound the alarm and grab our torches and pitchforks all the same. And therein is where I take my comfort in the inane kerfuffle of the day.

When you’re struggling to feed yourself, when you’re in actual risk of bodily harm, when you honestly don’t know if your child will wake up tomorrow, you don’t have time to take offense over a misspoken word, or a logo redesign you interpret to be lewd, or a piece of content you interpret with ill-intent.

The parade of pitchforks and torches chasing after the mice up and down my newsfeeds serve as a constant reminder that the days of wolves are long past and that we actually have a pretty damn good life. Slim consolation if you’re the community manager having to fend off the mob today, but consolation, nevertheless.

*noteI am not a neuroscientist. Haven’t even played one on TV. But I take an interest in how the mind works with relation to storytelling and why people seek out certain narratives as opposed to others. This conjecture is based on my current understanding of why we think the way we think, but I welcome corrections, should there be doctor in the house.


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