Is the world extra horrible, or is horror just the human condition?
August 16, 2016 10:14 AM   Subscribe

Maybe it's a nexus of my middle age with an especially bad year for current events, but I feel what can only be described as horror, on a deep emotional and even physical level, almost every day. Is this a thing that has been happening to people for a long time, or is the world measurably worse now making that feeling stronger, or is it just what happens to people as they age, or is it just me?

I guess I'm wondering about anthropological, historical, or psychological perspectives on what this feeling of horror is.

Did people start getting this with the rise of modernity? Or is it worse now?

In many ways I think the world is measurably better than in many points in the past (no massive trans-Atlantic slave trade, we're not in the middle of WWII, I don't know other stuff that used to be worse...)

On the other hand, this latest wave of video of police shooting, the rise of neo-fascist and racist charismatic politicians, apparent climate apocalypse, etc, literally makes me unable to sleep some nights.

Is this a common feeling now? Did it used to be? Is the world worse? Does the rise of widely disseminated information and video contribute?

I'm very wary of the idea that things were better in 'the old days', but my visceral feeling is that things are the worst that I've ever lived through and they are only getting more terrible. I'm wondering if folks talked about having this feeling at various points in the past, or if this is new.
posted by latkes to Religion & Philosophy (37 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
It is solely a result of all this deliberately horrifying material being beamed into your face by the Internet. Honest to God. I feel the same way; and that feeling goes away completely when I just stay offline for a day or more.

The world is not worse than it has been in the past. It is, generally, better. But never before has any generation had to deal with the most inflammatory, emotional-response demanding information -- information from all around the world, having no direct relevance to their own lives and needs -- being shoved into its face at every turn.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:18 AM on August 16, 2016 [43 favorites]

Check your home for CO leaks?
posted by mysticreferee at 10:20 AM on August 16, 2016 [9 favorites]

If you look at art you can see the horror that people felt recorded for the ages. Here's a poem from 1919 that could pretty much be about today just as easily as it was about WWI.

The CO comment above is actually excellent. One of the side effects of Carbon Monoxide poisoning is "a feeling of dread". Go spend $50 on a CO detector and move it to a few locations around the house over the next week or so.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:20 AM on August 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

On the one hand, you have people like Stephen Pinker saying that things used to be much worse. On the other hand, I remember hearing this phrase on Sunday morning religious radio: "The world always looks like the forces of evil are just about to triumph."

I don't think your question has some kind of actual answer. One thing that happens with age is that fewer people try and shield us from awful things we weren't supposed to know about. And more tragedies have actually befallen us since more time has passed. I remain an agnostic on the issue.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:25 AM on August 16, 2016 [6 favorites]

I think in absolute terms, there is more horror because there are more people. Plus, communications are way better, making it possible to know about a lot of bad stuff all over the world. But that isn't the whole story, no. It is also just a human tendency to focus on the bad stuff. You can choose to interact differently with the information sources available to get a more well rounded view.

In relative terms, there is probably less horror. We just seem to take good news for granted as the default "normal" and bad news as loss of our rightful due in life.
posted by Michele in California at 10:27 AM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I have a CO monitor/detector...
posted by latkes at 10:27 AM on August 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

Things are getting way better, and continue to do so. Listicle format, Normalish article format, Lots of chartsngraffs format.

As fingersandtoes suggests, it could be related to the media you consume. There was a comm theory back when I was in college (which I don't have the energy to check up on to see if it is still valid or has been superseded) that suggested people's perception of the world doesn't line up with the actual reality, in light of what kind and how much media they consume. The classic example is individuals who watch local news religiously (mostly older folks). When asked, their perceived and reported crime levels were much, MUCH higher in their cities than the actual crime rates, especially for violent crimes and things like child abductions. Those are newsworthy, and the are reported in a much higher ratio than they actually happen in real life.

Now, this is hard because we have some big generational challenges for sure...but almost every generation has had those. Things aren't perfect, and never will be...but they are getting better in specific, concrete, un-sexy, un-newsworthy ways.

I would highly recommend getting yourself on a media diet. Not just ostrich-ing your life away; there's a fine line between not knowing whats going on, and flooding yourself with negative media...but give yourself permission to tune things out when you need to, to allow yourself to regain some perspective and sanity. Root yourself in activities that remind you of the good cycles in our lives (for me its picking plums! Sounds cheesy, but its really nice).
posted by furnace.heart at 10:31 AM on August 16, 2016 [9 favorites]

you know the saying "sex sells"? Well, I think fear sells better. I think everything has become so.. outrageous over the last few years. People are upset about everything, and media has changed to reflect that outrage, about.. everything. Everything is treated with fear, horror, or rage.

I think part of this is the internet and the sense of anonymity it gives people to speak in a really hyperbolic manner about things, and I think part of this is the death of professional journalism. It used to be the style to be calm, dispassionate and fair in reporting, now reporting is politically motivated from both sides. Everyone is either offended or offensive.

The media is gross right now. I don't think the world is worse, but I sure do think that the way it is reported is.

If you can, try to take a step back from the news. I listen to the bbc world news once every couple of days, and I find it is generally reported fairly and succinctly. Don't read the news where people can comment, because commenters are terrible. Maybe try to get off facebook too (this is hypocritical of me because I can't, I need to see all my friends babies!) but I find facebook really makes me hate people I thought I liked in a surprising way!
posted by euphoria066 at 10:35 AM on August 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

Well, if you wanted to form a support group, I might help.
posted by amtho at 10:44 AM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

There is absolutely a link between social media, the 24 hour news cycle, and personal feelings of despair. I read an article recently that talked about the link between constant media exposure to terrorist attacks, police brutality, and a certain presidential candidate and the growth of what the researchers were calling media-induced PTSD. I can't seem to find the article I read again, but here are some others that talk about it: repeated exposure to media harmful for mental health; watching news coverage and psychological effects; media's role in Boston Marathon (NIH).

The recommended course of action is to limit media; easier said than done, since so much news is integrated into social media and the websites (the royal) we consume on any given day. You're not alone in feeling like things are extra horrible, but in my own life I've done better with this feeling on the weekends camping, etc. when I have no choice but to be out of the loop...ymmv. Hugs.
posted by stellaluna at 10:44 AM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you grew up in the 90s, and are a Western northerner, you probably came of age at an unusually optimistic historic moment, in comparison to which the timeline we're on feels like a nightmare. (The economy was good; the Berlin Wall had come down; Francis Fukuyama's End of History idea was taken for granted by a lot of people.) I still have to pinch myself sometimes to really get that it's not a bad dream. And to really get that we're not permanently fixable by any political movement or moment. It's been a rude awakening for some of us :/
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:45 AM on August 16, 2016 [18 favorites]

Perhaps you need to watch less nonsense on the news. Face it: you are not a refugee fleeing with your family from Syria. You are not evacuated from flooding in La or fires in Ca...there are many who do in fact confront bad stuff NOW.
As for the past: it was much worse than at present and may seem not so because you are not aware of the beheadings for petty things, slavery, inadequate protection against a host of plagues and illnesses. The Great Depression. Average lifespan as half of what it now is...etc etc etc
Another way to look at it: what if things are so bad? what will you do about it? How will you handle it?
I seem perhaps more optimistic than many you might know, but then, this week I turn 87...for me, life may not be a caberet but it is also not yet a nursing home.
posted by Postroad at 10:47 AM on August 16, 2016 [19 favorites]

There is always horror, more where resources are limited or perceived to be, less where [and during times when] we feel as though we are in a land of plenty.

In the U.S., we are now experiencing it in our own backyards instead of just reading about it across various ponds, so it is no longer an academic exercise. But it is just another time and location for the same abuse, violence and corruption that has occurred throughout recorded history.

People in the U.S. today feel a keen lack of resources and financial stability, power [perceived or real] is shifting along racial lines, there are more guns than people, other countries have issued travel advisories against visiting the U.S., social media has people not even exposed to other points of view much less living in harmony with them, and the end of the world as we know it is imminent. And it's everyone else's fault.

So although certain statistics may insist that the world is better than it used to be, the doomsday clock is set at three minutes to midnight and people are fighting for survival (or building bunkers and stockpiling weapons in preparation for the fight). And it's going to get a lot worse. Sorry.
posted by headnsouth at 10:49 AM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Very interesting question!

It seems to me that describing the human situation as something filled with dread was something that philosophers in the last century did a lot. Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Sartre. Some called it existential angst.

I am totally not a philosophy major - it may be that this is a much older concept, but it seems to me that in earlier times the surrounding context of religion was a comfort for human suffering. "It's as God wills" and so on. I'm sure that earlier people had many experiences of fear and suffering, but I wonder if the dread thing hasn't increased significantly as an effect of science's displacement of people from the center of the universe (captured in Nietzsche's aphorism that God was dead). Rollo May, the existentialist psychologist, called the last century the age of anxiety. Certainly modernity has significantly shifted the living conditions of the mass of humanity in extremely radical ways, and that it may be that the age of industrialization gave rise to significant increases in human anxiety.

I do agree with those suggestions above - that if you're asking about this type of personal suffering, it's probably best to shut down your access to news/social media and so on, as provoking outrage and anxiety seems to be a way to get people to buy stuff. Meditative practices can be a great help here.
posted by jasper411 at 10:58 AM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Take a look at the Doomsday Clock graph on this page for one measure of how horrible people have thought things were over the last 70 years. We're clearly not at the lowest ever point, but if you're 45 or younger, you can see why it might seem to you as if things have been getting steadily worse.

I'm probably older than you, and it doesn't feel to me as if things have been getting worse overall, so I'm guessing this isn't just "what happens to people as they age."

There's no way I could see things as worse overall when I look at the changes in the U.S. just in my lifetime. When I was born, segregation was still legal in the southern U.S. The Civil Rights Act hadn't yet been passed. Help wanted ads often specified whether the job was for a man or a woman and that was perfectly legal. Stewardesses could be fired if they got married (or fat.) Gay people not only couldn't get married, they couldn't even feel safe letting other people know they were gay. (Transgender people? No one even knew that word.) Cigarette ads were everywhere. People were just beginning to recognize how harmful DDT was, but it was still legal. Environmental protection laws like the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act hadn't been passed yet. The Environmental Protection Agency didn't exist. People were really scared about the possibility of nuclear war. I could go on and on.
posted by Redstart at 11:14 AM on August 16, 2016 [8 favorites]

Not to downplay a lot of real concerns, but I remember when Lou Reed's "New York" album came out it seemed to capture a world in the late 80s that couldn't possibly get worse - homelessness, AIDS, the environment, etc.
posted by mattholomew at 11:20 AM on August 16, 2016

It was also a time in which the idea of terrorists blowing up the Twin Towers was only conceivable as the plot of a Bruce Willis movie
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:26 AM on August 16, 2016

I think that exactly the same percentage of terrible stuff is happening that was ever happening; the only thing that's changed is that we are more likely to hear about it. A hundred years ago, you wouldn't have known about the smaller incidents that happened in other countries; for something to make the USA news it would have to be SERIOUSLY big. Two hundred years ago, you may not even have heard of what was going on on the other side of THIS country. Today, you're not just hearing the major world-altering news from around the world, you're also hearing their equivalent of local news (case in point - a hundred years ago we wouldn't have heard jack shit about an equivalent incident to Boko Haram kidnapping those girls from a school in Nigeria).

By the same token, though, we are also more likely to hear about the GOOD things that happen, or the WEIRD things. Case in point - on the blue right now there is a post about a bunch of people in pig masks cavorting through the streets in Sweden and having sex on top of a waterwheel. A hundred years ago you definitely wouldn't have heard about that.

But even though you wouldn't have heard about the Boko Haram type of stuff a hundred years ago, it would still have been happening. But conversely, you wouldn't have heard about the sex pig stuff either. And now you CAN hear about it, which offsets the awfulness.

I find that reminding myself that human nature hasn't changed, only human communication has, tends to help me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:53 AM on August 16, 2016 [9 favorites]

It's a combination of the increased availability of news and the awful stuff sticking better in our memories. And I do think a lot of it is just getting older: you're thinking more about your future, you start losing family members and childhood heroes and grow more aware of your own mortality, all that good stuff. You've had enough time on earth that you can start comparing things to previous decades, but not enough time that you can make a truly accurate comparison.

And it's pretty common. I'm cowering under the pillowfort with you.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:05 PM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I for one know I am internalizing a bunch of awfulness, lately, and it does feel viscerally horrible, and I need to do something about it.

I think for me the origins are a) what's been said above -- the world has effectively shrunk, so now we hear about Freddie Grey with ease, and from so many sources; whereas before social media, you could just avoid network news, and ignore the realization that America is now armed and chasing each other with guns and it's only a matter of time until any one or all of us is caught in it; and b) the election.

And by the election I mean the realization that so many of my fellow Americans -- around me! -- are misogynistic, xenophobic 'got mine, fuck you' people who will vote Trump no matter what; and the deep, pervasive gender-based ways that continue in how we treat and think about inarguably the most qualified and best presidential candidate we've ever had. And if Trump is elected, well, I can't even let my mind go there but I know it's out there as a nontrivial possibility.

Combined with a downturn or two in my own life, I'm deeply feeling the need to close down the blinders a little, I think.
posted by Dashy at 12:46 PM on August 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm going to be 52 in a minute, and I do not remember a time when it didn't feel like the world was going to end. Bad things have always been happening. One thing that makes it seem worse right now is increased media access, but in some ways, that's a good thing. Young black men in America have always been subject to more harassment and violence from police. It's just that it was easier for white people to ignore or dismiss until everyone started carrying cell phone cameras around.

You hear about pedophiles a lot more now, but that's not because there's more. There's probably a lot less of it going on right now, largely because we talk about it now. IIRC, it wasn't even illegal to possess child pornography until 1982. You weren't supposed to produce it, but you could have it. People didn't hear about that stuff because as a culture, we hadn't really seen it as a big problem. And that dynamic plays out with a lot of things, like sexist and racist violence.

During the cold war, people lived with a real and constant threat of nuclear annihilation. In hindsight, it doesn't seem so bad because it didn't happen, but at the time, it loomed.

The early days of AIDS were terrifying as well. Nobody knew what was happening, except that young, previously healthy people were dying. In some circles, it was constant. But the media, at first, was ignoring it, so there were sheltered people who didn't grasp the enormity of the situation for quite a while. But among those who were watching it happen, yeah, it very much looked like The End.

If you spend too much time focusing on these things right now, you do get a sense of misleading vividness, and the world seems crueler and meaner and farther gone than it really is. And some things, make no mistake, really are terrible. It's probably too late to turn back for the climate. Heck only knows how the new economy is going to pan out. And, of course, there's a thing I won't even say out loud that is unlikely but could happen in November.

I don't remember a time when there wasn't at least something, though, so overall, I wouldn't say things are really worse. We're just better informed about what's wrong with our culture. And in a lot of ways, we've overshot it.

But when you see some of these horrible stories, consider that a lot of this stuff has been going on all along, and the fact that we're hearing about it and acknowledging it's a problem is actually progress.
posted by ernielundquist at 12:51 PM on August 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

I spend 80% of my day hooked into a glowing panel that's very happy to bring me the worst news in the world, which, by definition, I cannot affect or change. You may well be similar. Life now is actually very good on average, but you don't see the average.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:20 PM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure how you would test for this, but consider the possibility of infrasound in your home. I used to wake up in the middle of the night with terrible dread. Then a few years ago it stopped. I'm not entirely sure precisely when it stopped, but it could coincide with when I replaced my heat pump (furnaces being one known source of infrasound). My theory is that maybe it was "louder" which is why it would affect me in the middle of the night. Previously.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:45 PM on August 16, 2016

Bill Gates does an annual letter that is, in effect, the state of the world. He says it's getting better. 2015. We are eradicating horrible diseases like river blindness, and despite recent setbacks, polio is getting rare. For those of us in the 1st world, those things haven't been an issue for a while, but for many, this is massive progress. Mind you, the state of racism, sexism, etc., has taken a nasty turn in the US, but I think it's been there and is just being exposed by the election. Personally, global climate change looks like it may undo the rest of the good things, but maybe there will be breakthroughs.
posted by theora55 at 1:49 PM on August 16, 2016 [6 favorites]

This is directly due to our constant exposure to sensationalist and hysterical (i.e. all) media.

Go outside and smell some flowers.
posted by so fucking future at 3:43 PM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

This article talks about it in terms of experiencing vicarious trauma:

Feeling hopeless? A therapist explains why you might be grieving the state of our world.

And maybe watch Louis C.K.'s bit about how white men are the only people who even remotely might be able to think that living in the past would be better.
posted by MsMolly at 5:33 PM on August 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

Children of the Cold War grew up with the dread that they would be reduced be radioactive ash with no warning. And in retrospect there were something like a dozen or more close calls where there were literally hands on buttons nearly launching, due to accidents, miscommunications, etc. The world really could have ended and the dread was completely, terrifyingly, rational.

If you're a child of the 90s like I am, then some things probably are really are worse than you can remember. Things have gotten better, in many places, very recently. There's only one dictatorship left in Europe- Greece has only been a democracy since 1974. The Northern Irish Troubles were only officially ended in 1999- and it's been more or less peaceful since. Most of South America is run more or less democratically, which is pretty amazing considering the brutal dictatorships that held sway until quite recently. The peace process in Colombia is looking strong- and the war with the FARC dates back to 1964. The rise of the standard of living in China over the last couple of decades is staggering.

If you stepped into a time machine and got out 30 years ago in China, or India, or Argentina or Northern Ireland or the Eastern half of Germany you would find yourself hugely worse off in almost every way.

I'm not convinced that modern media is so much more immediate and hysterical than ye olde media. Ye olde media reported on (and sometimes invented or inflated) horrible massacres all the time, since it sold papers! Of course it was mostly about massacres of Christians, of British soldiers, of settlers by American Indians, etc, but hysterical headlines about this sort of thing is as old as newsprint. Victorian newspapers had reports from all over the Empire- admittedly, the news was delayed a bit, but you could still read about massacres happening on the other side of the world, if they were parts that the Empire was interested in.
posted by BungaDunga at 5:44 PM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

When my parents were growing up, they weren't going to school because all the schools were closed and the students were dispersed into the countryside to learn from the peasants by doing forced labor.

At some point my mother was taken off for a month of military training, which turned out to be a pack of grade-school kids doing all-day route marches with loaded packs on a ball of rice or a big cracker and then crying with homesickness and begging for more crackers at night.

At least one of my uncles, maybe more, were taken away to colonize the wilderness. It was the kind of place where you ride a train for a week until there's no more rail, and then you get on a bus and drive until there's no more road, and then you get dumped out in the middle of nowhere with some hand tools and seed grain. He was allowed to visit home once a year.

My father was sent away to not-so-nice relatives in the countryside to distance him from his father, who was persona non grata due to having served the previous regime as a minor bureaucrat. My grandfather never talked about what happened to him, exactly, but it wasn't uncommon for people like him to get stood up on a stool to bow and apologize until they passed out. This was usually repeated until they were judged sufficiently reformed.

There was a famine, which luckily all my close relatives survived, so now sometimes when they get together they can laugh about who ate the worst thing.

Whereas my life has been awesome. I don't think I've gone two consecutive days without food even once in my life. I've definitely never gone even one day without water. This weekend I carried a 35lb pack for 12 hours while the heat index was 110F. Just for fun. Because, like, I've got four thousand spare calories burning a hole in my pocket and my home life is boring or something, I don't know.

To be clear, I'm not trying to say that nothing is bad anymore, or that there isn't poverty and illness and misery in the U.S. You should want the police to beat you less. You should want your home to stay above water. These are totally reasonable desires.

I'm just saying, it could be worse. It has been worse, and in places it still is. And because happiness is relative, you might actually be happier if you were to dwell on that a bit more.
posted by d. z. wang at 6:20 PM on August 16, 2016 [11 favorites]

I like to think that the news media reflects the emotional bandwidth of the marginal voter. Not marginalized, the voter that sits in the middle and can be the deciding vote on which way America tilts.

It's possibly apocryphal, but George Wallace supposedly commented that segregation was officially on the way out once the Birmingham protests were televised. The injustice wasn't new. But suddenly it was real and urgent to white middle class voters. Both Kennedy and Nixon both discussed civil rights as an important pillar to their 1960 campaign.

I think it's wrong to think of the 90s as idyllic. It was a time when people were burned out. Importantly, we were reeling from the impact of just how bad the USSR had fared under communism. It was important empiric data, but people are risk averse and it took the wind out of progressive economic policy. It was compounded by the fact that an unregulated market will grow faster than a regulated market, even if it is also subject to harsher market realignments.

Socially, we had accomplished a lot through the 60s and 70s. It was easy for the marginal (not marginalized) voter to say Mission Accomplished. It took a lot of work to get marginalized voices to the marginal voter. And I think it took another generation to be able to look back and truly understand why their parents revolution wasn't enough.

Whenever I get overwhelmed by the news, I like to remind myself that it's pretty great we think [X] is important enough to be on our radar. I often take a lot of things off my radar, since they impact my wellbeing and I am relatively powerless. But I forgive myself by deciding to support the policy positions of those I feel are disenfranchised. As a fairly privileged individual, it's one of the most important things I can do. Especially since it's not a given reaction. Many people react to this fear by resisting change, either due to reactionary tendencies or just as often apathetic tendencies. (It can never get better, both parties are corrupt, we fixed racism in the 60s, etc)
posted by politikitty at 7:01 PM on August 16, 2016

People above have covered other aspects of this well, but I wanted to add that horrifying things have always been going on, and the marginalized people who they affected have always known about them. It's just now that the media landscape and technology has actually allowed them to be taken seriously, to be believed, in a way that they couldn't be before.

The Louis CK routine is pretty on point. The thought experiment of the past being better is tied up a lot with knowing you'd even have a life in the past.
posted by ariadne's threadspinner at 7:31 PM on August 16, 2016

Looking at that Doomsday Clock wiki page put a lot of my thoughts in context. My personal memories begin in 1990, and I'm from suburban California. There were things that worried me when I was a child and I knew bad stuff was happening elsewhere in the world, but I was not worried about the Cold War as my parents were, nor about hotter wars and the Depression as my grandparents were. It felt like things were going fine, in general, and it seemed like the media and domestic politics of the time reflected that. In retrospect this is certainly because people were so relieved that the threat of nuclear war seemed to have receded, but I didn't remember that part of world history. I just thought things were, y'know...fine.

If you're around my age, the Doomsday Clock has been almost monotonically getting shorter since you started forming memories. You're more justified than many in longing for the simpler times of your childhood, I think.

Just to give a concrete, quotidian example: my parents did take-cover drills for nuclear attacks in elementary school. My kids will do "lockdown" drills for what happens when there's an active shooter on campus. The only drills we had when I was a kid were fire or earthquake drills. We were given no reason to believe that we needed to practice for the eventuality that any human being would harm kids at school, neither through terrorism nor through an act of war, and our parents weren't clamoring for those kinds of drills because nobody thought we needed them. My mom teaches school a mile from my elementary school, and they do lockdown drills annually now.

Even if you didn't use the internet or watch TV, there's an ambient cultural fear and horror that's pervasive if you participate in society at all. I don't think "unplug from the news-driven fear machine, you'll feel better" really covers it. You might feel a little better, but ultimately you still have to live and work with lots of other scared, worried people.
posted by the marble index at 9:12 PM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is a worldview that Thomas Ligotti has made a living off of as a writer. It might worth reading his Conspiracy Against the Human Race.
posted by perhapses at 9:21 PM on August 16, 2016

"In times like these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these."
posted by mefireader at 9:02 AM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think it's in part due to the amount, velocity and higher-fidelity of information that gets to us. We're not equipped emotionally (yet) to deal with it. We get more information about what some humans are doing, we get it faster, and in a more personal way. Reading a 3rd party account a week later and seeing an almost live pov video of something happening have a very different emotional impact.

So yes, on metrics, the world is getting better. But part of that is also getting better at discovering the horribleness and somehow ways to address it - it's harder to pretend now that horrible things aren't happening, whereas a few years ago, you were more shielded from human suffering.

I feel that how we cope with that is a new, different kind of tradeoff to make now that information is available. We all have to learn a way to balance connectedness to the world (and its emotional toll, positive and negative) and personal well being. Just going outside won't cut it. These are interesting times....
posted by motdiem2 at 11:03 AM on August 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

I just watched this video. I make a point to seek out reminders that things are getting better.
posted by Shanda at 11:45 AM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

>It used to be the style to be calm, dispassionate and fair in reporting

For the record, while its tone may have been calm, reporting has never been fair- it's just that the people to whom the reporting was deeply unfair never had a platform to voice their side of the story.

It's only pretty recently that social media has allowed us to approach something like actual democracy where most people in North America have cameras in their pockets and access to platforms like Twitter or YouTube where one random person's words or a candid video proving a point can reach millions.

You can draw a pretty straight line from Jim Crow lynchings to Rodney King's beating caught on a civilian's camera in the 1990s and then to Philando Castile dying in police custody on Facebook Live after a bogus traffic stop this year.

Back in the good old calm dispassionate days, lynchings were actually planned and advertised in nice genteel white Southern newspapers, to make sure the spectators and photographers could get there on time. That was the reporting then. Now we have widespread outcry and sometimes riots, because everyone's voice, and everyone's footage, are just a hashtag away from being seen and heard.

Obviously the civil rights stuff I mentioned above is a pretty specific example, but really the principle applies to every issue. For hundreds of years, there was one loud, well-published voice telling us things were fine, and that was ALWAYS the voice of a white man who was wealthy and able bodied. Now, all the voices can be heard, and what they tend to say is "hey, this {insert oppressive thing} is bullshit". The net effect is to make things feel loud and cacophonous and therefore superfically worse because now we can hear all the complaints, and that is more uncomfortable than just hearing One Voice tell us how fine it all is. But really, because of those squeaky uncomfortable complaints, things are finally actually (gradually) getting better.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:44 AM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

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