Why Won’t they Let us Chill?

A line of people starting at their phones instead of talking to each other.
Social media is turning us against each other by highlighting differences we would othrwrise never know existed.

We seem to live in a world of one emergency, danger, or hyped-up event after another. It is as if the media wants us in a constant state of panic to spike our adrenalin levels, create anxiety, and foster anger.

Hand-in-hand with this is the constant attempt to set people against each other. “Look what they have done!” “But they did this first!” “Now they have done that! What are we going to do?” “Let’s pass a law and arrest them all!”

The combination makes small problems seem large, minor disagreements appear to be major, and everyone but your immediate tribe look like your enemy. As a result, we no longer give people the benefit of the doubt; we no longer try to walk a mile in their shoes; and we assume that everyone who doesn’t believe exactly the same thing we do is a terrible (insert your favorite over-hyped negative adjective here).

Take a Step Back

If we’d all just take a chill pill, step back from the brink, and relax, we might realize that the vast majority of Americans don’t have a beef with other Americans who believe something different until that difference is flaunted in their face. I think Americans have been a live-and-let-culture until the advent of social media. Social media not only allows but encourages people to flaunt things in the face of others. As a result, little-known things that would otherwise remain below the radar become arguments and before you know it, someone is claiming hate speech and trying to get the other thrown of the site, fired from their job, or voted off the island.

Social media is not there to keep you in touch with your friends and families; it is there to generate eyeballs which generate advertising revenue, which translates to profits for social media companies, which allows social media companies to grow and amass more money and more power. Never forget that social media companies are, first and foremost, commercial for-profit entities. If they promote “community” they do so only because it makes them money.

Cute cat videos get views because they are cute. Dancing girls with bouncing boobies and short skirts that flash us their underwear get views because, well, boys are boys, and so are some grown men. But what really generates views is controversy. Posts that someone hates and someone else loves not only generate views, they generate comments and people read the comments, spending more time on the page, and viewing more ads.

That’s why political topics are good for Twitter. I mean, you can only beat the old 9mm vs .45 dead horse so many times, but if you tell someone you want to take away their 9mms and .45s, you will generate plenty of vitriol, leading to more comments, more readers, and more eye balls.

Us versus Them

Tribal warfare goes back thousands of years. We may not use spears and clubs any more, but people still have a “take no prisoners” attitude. Social media stirs up these battles to generate views, without stopping to think what it does to this country. We used to all be Americans first and something else second. Today, that trend has been reversed. Now we are Americans last and something else first, second and third.

Benjamin Franklin told the Continental Congress, “We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” Sadly, we have forgotten that advice and are no longer any hanging together. For example, I’d bet there are schools who will not teach that quote or anything else about Benjamin Franklin because he was a white man who at one time owned slaves, even though he spoke out against slavery in his later years.

For those that feel that way, let me share a quote from another old white man, Winston Churchill: “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

We are a nation that is increasingly divided, and as Jesus said in Matthew 12:25: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”

Stop Allowing them to Divide You

One of the best ways to stop letting them divide us is to stop listening to the messages that don’t directly affect you. Consider them the clickbait of the political operative and just say no. Here’s an example of my thoughts using headlines from Friday’s the Drudge Report, which remains one of America’s top news conglomerators:

  • Libya flooding deal toll tops 11,000 – so what, I don’t live in Libya or know anyone who does. I can predict this article includes a lecture on the ills of global warming, so I don’t click this one.
  • Workers lash out at Biden – so what? I don’t work in a union.
  • Biden campaign lashes out at Trump – Wait… isn’t that their job?
  • Jann Wenner Defends His Legacy — and His Generation – I stopped reading Rolling Stone more than 30 years ago because of their politics. I don’t care what Jann Wenner has to say.
  • Drew Barrymore rebuked over talk show returning during strike – who cares? Why is this considered news? And by the way, I didn’t even know she had a talk show.
  • Married Sdakota gov and trump advisor in years-long fling – shame on them. I don’t need to read the story because the headline says it all.
  • ABCNews staffers ‘freaking the f**k out’ over sale rumors – So what? I can’t remember the last time I watched ABC news.
  • Does Musk have too much power? – No. I might click the story if the headline was “Does Bezos have too much power?”
  • HOMELAND: Growing number of people on terrorist watchlist encountered at border – OK, this one I might read. That’s 1 out of 9.

Notice that much of the actual news doesn’t appear here. I’m talking about stories like what the financial markets did and why, what happened in the Ukraine war, what Congress did today, if the Chinese ships are still surrounding China, etc. Not a word.

Just say “So What?”

I think we should all say, “So what” more often. Before we get outraged, we should ask, “Does this affect me or mine? If not, then so what?”

Let’s say there is a breaking story that the mayor of a nearby city draws whiskers on their face, wears pointy ears and shoves a furry tail up their bum when they have sex with their spouse. So what? Does that make them a bad mayor? As long as the mayor doesn’t put sex toys on the city credit card or encourage school children to mimic them, I don’t think we should care what they do in the privacy of their bedroom. After all, I don’t want the mayor peeping through my bedroom shades.

Let’s say there’s a video of your son’s school teacher on a porn website that she says was coerced into filming ten years ago when she was young and dumb. So what? Does that make her a bad teacher? Do you expect me to believe you got through college without doing something stupid?

Someone likes a sports team you hate. So what? Does that make them a bad person? Someone has an election sign in their yard for someone you are voting against. So what? Isn’t that why we have elections? Someone said something you felt was racist or misogynistic. So what? Did they do it intentionally offend you, or are they from a different generation, culture, or just didn’t know any better? Ignore them and move on. Someone unintentionally hurt your feelings with a casual comment. If you consider them a friend, gently bring it up and discuss it with them. If they are not a friend or coworker, then so what? Get over it.

Nothing to See Here

A popular recurring meme is Leslie Nielsen from The Naked Gun saying “Nothing to see here” superimposed on all manner of crazy subjects. Ironically, we might all be better off if we ignored more of the things that don’t affect us instead of getting worked up about things over which we have no control. We might be happier if we don’t get 20 updates a day on various Trump indictments or Hunter Biden stories. You might sleep better if you didn’t argue with idiots on Twitter. You might find peace if you forgave those who trespassed against you.

And if none of that works, then delete all your social media apps and confine yourself to 20 minutes of news in the morning and 20 minutes more at night. It will do you good and if everyone did it, it would do our country good.

Why Won’t they Let us Chill?