Our environments have a huge impact on us. We’re affected psychologically by what we encounter, and pathways our brains form develop in response to that. Bits of our DNA switch on and off in response to our environments. How and where we choose to spend our time is therefore an important consideration.
The media we each consume is very much part of the experience that shapes us. It’s also one of the bits we get a real choice in. What works for one person might not work for another and that’s all part of the glorious diversity of being human. However, when it comes to hate watching/reading I think there are questions to ask.
It’s evident over on Twitter that there are a lot of people watching the Harry and Megan series on Netflix precisely so that they can be angry about it. I’ve only spent a few minutes looking at this because I try to balance having some idea what’s going on against not being overwhelmed by horrible things. I dip into news sources cautiously. It is really easy – especially on a site like Twitter – to end up scrolling through a lot of hatred and bile. It’s important to remember that we don’t have to know every awful detail and sometimes it is a good idea to look away.
Social media and the internet allow limitless opportunity to engage with people we don’t like, content that infuriates us and ideas we hate. While it’s good to encounter diverse opinions, letting things you hate become a significant part of your environment isn’t good. But it clearly is attractive.
Anger is a powerful emotion. Feeling like you have the moral high ground can be intoxicating. Seeking out things you hate can be a way of bolstering self righteousness and there can be a feel-good aspect to that for a while. But not for long, because exposing yourself to stuff you hate in order to feel superior to it takes far more than it gives. I’ve made that mistake a few times and I do not like where it takes me. It’s all too easy to get into without noticing what the impact is.
There are of course many other reasons for seeking out discomforting things. The need to know, and to understand sends people looking at things they loathe in order to make sense of them. I know not to watch any Jordan Peterson videos thanks to people who have done so and talked about it. Some social movements cannot safely be ignored. Sometimes, to protect our people, our communities we have to wade in and deal with the haters. Sometimes, fear of what’s coming will have you staring into the void, hoping to dodge whatever horror it spits out next.
As with most things, I think reflection is key. Noticing patterns of behaviour and what the consequences are. Checking in with yourself over whatever you’re doing with your time. Being alert to what nourishes you, and what doesn’t, what’s necessary and what isn’t. If you have the privilege to be able to pick your fights, then pick carefully.