Why am I doing this?

In a week of national turmoil, I noticed something about myself. I cannot stop looking at my phone. I am scrolling, looking, and observing what other people are saying about the crisis. I am reading opinions, and arguments, and watching people’s reactions to everything.

All of it is interesting, fascinating, even entertaining. But something else happened. I noticed that I also feel depressed, I feel discouraged, and I feel anxious about the world we live in.

The challenges of living and thriving in the modern technological age of information is coming to bite me again. And I am needing to understand this.
Why do I feel tempted to look more at social media during times of crisis? And what did I get by engaging in that behavior? It turns out that looking at my phone during crisis is tapping into a deep human behavior wired within me.

Let me explain.

This reminds me of when I was in school. I’d hear a loud noise commotion down the hall. Everyone jumps out from the seat and goes to see what happens. A crowd forms around. And people turn heads and whisper to one another What happened? He did what? Can you believe what happened? This happens instinctually and reliably

It turns out this horizontal looking is human nature to changes in our environment. Whenever there is something that threatens our safety or is interesting in our environment, our immediate reaction is to look around at the humans around us. We ask questions, talk to them–yes, even strangers. We use social cues to help us reorient us to the changing environment around us. Inside we are looking for core things– we are looking for answers, comfort, and connection in this shared experience.

In real life, these are powerful bonding moments that draw us together. Some people share deep life experiences with strangers through experiencing events together.

But in our social media world, we do the same thing. The only difference is that we’re getting a completely different animal. In times of social unrest, people’s phones “blow up”. We, like humans who look around at accidents, are looking for the same things–connection, comfort, and answers.

The only (and huge) difference is, we are opening ourselves to something we didn’t bargain for. Opening to our social feeds we are met with semi-processed emotions ranging from grief, anger, and even malice. Old wounds are poked. Social media is no longer a place of escape of entertainment and connection–it now holds the collective stress and anxiety of the world around us. And we in turn become affected for the worse. In other words..

What we needed was connection, comfort, and answers.
What we got was poison.

I am always haunted and challenged by Jesus’ words: Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. Matt 6:22

Out of our need for connection, we inadvertently expose ourselves to the malice of an anxious world. This isn’t to cause us to live sheltered and shelled lives. But rather, it is understanding the greatest contributions I give to the world are always the ones done from a place of perfect peace.

When I have peace; I can give it.

This has caused me to reassess how I reorient myself to my surroundings in times of turmoil.

Do you ever find this to be the case in your life?