Is social media outrage sapping your energy?



My 28-year-old daughter recently got back on Facebook for the first time since college. She’s enjoying the renewed connections, but she also said, “I’m outraged a lot more.” Her comment started me thinking. You know how it is: you see a link that gets your heart pounding, and you click on it. You read an article that upsets you even more. Then maybe you read some ridiculous comments on the article or on the original post. Twenty minutes later (or more) you come back to yourself, and get back to work.

I’ve decided this is a waste of valuable energy. I’m going to fast from clicking on those upsetting links for three months. I don’t think spending my time that way is productive. It doesn’t lead me to action, and it keeps me from working on my most important goals, which include helping leaders make a difference in the world.

Sure, there are plenty of outrageous things going on – some scary, some tragic, and some simply annoying. But we can’t work on them all.

And the spread of these outrage-producing links is actually counterproductive. It heightens anxiety, which causes people to think less clearly. Edwin Friedman used to talk about “step-up transformers,” people who amp up the anxiety in any system. Your church probably has one or two. Don’t be one of them on social media. If you want to share links, share things that will help people become more thoughtful, not less. That’s my own intention from here on out.

In fact, if we spent as much time working for change in the world as we do jumping from link to link, our lives and the lives of others would be different.

What are the many ways we can work toward a different world? The Internet is an important part of it, but only if we use it in a way that supports our goals, and doesn’t distract us from them.


Image: Prawny

9 replies on “Is social media outrage sapping your energy?

  • Peter Walsh

    Thanks for eloquently articulating the benevolent opportunity of social media – to uplift and connect! It has inspired me to want to introduce my children to that approach before they even get involved (they’re 9 and 11).

  • Dan Hester

    Sometimes I think about the posts on social media as opportunities for me to practice regulating my own reactivity. I can get quite a workout some days.

  • Phineas Marr

    Reading this article infuriated me.

    No, seriously, once again you have hit the ball out of the park. It made me realize that I probably don’t need to read things that aggravate me. I’m from New Jersey. Normal living aggravates me enough. You got a problem with that? :)

  • Lorna Hecht-Zablow, MFT

    I recently unfriended someone who kept writing posts comparing contemporary American political figures to, for example, Adolf Hitler. I do not want to see Hitler’s name in my newsfeed! And here I’ve gone and written it myself! Just proves that the anxiety spreads from person to person in an entropic fashion.

  • Kent Harrop

    Thanks Margaret,your article makes me think about how I use social media. For me Facebook is a place to encourage others and learn about what’s going on in my friend’s lives. It is also a place to educate and for respectful conversation but not a place to convince the other. I agree too that it can be a spiritual practice to step away for periods of time from social media, the internet, the cell phone etc to simply ‘be’ present to life in real time and face to face. Isaiah 55:3 says ‘Listen and your soul will live’, hard to listen when I’m always talking!

  • Dwight Robarts

    Margaret. This is right on. I have not only limited my time looking at social media, I have significantly curtailed my exposure to main stream news media. All they sell is fear and anxiety, except of course for the brief and obligatory “now for the good stuff,” which is probably 5% of what they report.

  • Sean Harry

    Margaret – I have been thinking exactly the same thing. I actually un-friended several people during the elections as the hate and anger put me over the edge. I’ve decided that I will use a different mechanism to get my news. Thanks for the encouragement! (I’m going to post this on Facebook . . . let’s see if anyone gets upset!)

  • Dick Moser

    Excellent concept. Thank you for the memorable thought. It applies to all people and organizations of every type.


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