The media was created to sell. Clicks and viewership are worth big money. The more outrageous the headline and the more outrageous the story, the more likely a media outlet attracts an audience. Every headline, news story, blog post, social media platform, YouTube offering, one-sided documentary, media show, or likewise fare is geared for one thing and one thing only: to make money. (This blog is the exception, as you can see, by lack of promotion and ads.)

Normal people doing well, bipartisanship in Washington, and kitten videos don’t bring in ad bucks. Instead, when we grab our morning coffee and device, we’re greeted with SHOCKING and HORRIFIC stories crafted to pique our interest, engage our emotions—especially anger—and intensify our desire us for more. More and more so we can feel intoxicating effect of outrage! More and more so we can prove WE ARE right. More and more so we can prove THEY ARE wrong.

“If it bleeds, it leads,” Eric Pooley (New York Magazine, 1989).

We’ve gone beyond “if it bleeds, it leads,” these days. Not simply content with covering grisly murders or polarizing trials, news outlets have become saturated with warring opinion and viewpoints concentrating on fringe ideas, outlandish theories and knowingly inaccurate interpretations.

Media have specifically designed their fare to create OUTRAGE.

Which, unfortunately, spills over to real life. Neighbor attacking neighbor, people acting insulted and defiantly demanding their way, always, and incivility abounding in every encounter. Demanding, defiant and detrimental: we live in a dangerous age where people yell at the cashier without shame, spit in others’ faces, resort to blows…and worse.

Daily encounters are land mines due to the unpredictable behavior of people who live in a media-induced constant state of outrage. And, I blame the misconception of what is true reality by the media whose only objective is to get more bank.

How our bodies react.

We all learned that when we encounter a stressful or threatening situation, our bodies enter “fight or flight” mode.  Like the zebra chased by the lion, all systems in the zebra’s are minimized except for those relating to running away. Similarly, our bodies react, prepping to stay for the fisticuffs or turn and hightail like Usain Bolt.

When we encounter stress, hormones are released that help us manage the situation. Epinephrine (Adrenaline), Norepinephrine, and Cortisol are those hormones, and each have their own function.

Epinephrine works to stimulate heart rate and large muscles, increase energy by converting glycogen to glucose and thereby raising blood sugar, dilate the pupils, heighten awareness, and shut down peripheral blood flow so more blood can be pumped to the muscles. In medical treatment, Epinephrine is used to combat such conditions heart attacks, severe low blood pressure and allergic reactions.

Norepinephrine works alongside Epinephrine and creates arousal. Norepinephrine works mainly on constricting blood flow to the outer extremities which increases blood pressure. In medicine, Norepinephrine is used to treat low blood pressure from septic shock, ADHD and depression.

Cortisol is the long-term hormone that takes minutes, not seconds to enter the system. It’s also known as the “Stress Hormone.” It helps to maintain fluid balance and blood pressure, and regulate body functions that aren’t crucial during stress, like libido and digestion.

But when we are constantly under stress, as in continually feeding on outrage, the body continuously releases cortisol. Chronic elevated levels can lead to serious health issues.

Long term effects of too much Cortisol:

  • Heart Disease
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Digestive Problems
  • Headaches
  • High Blood Sugar
  • Sleep Problems
  • Weight Gain
  • Memory and Concentration Impairment

The media is wired, like our body’s response to stress, to stimulate the stress response. They want us jolted, jarred and jumbled. We get that stimulating high from outrage from headlines and stories highlighting the latest political antic, racial slur, sexist remark, or anything they know will raise our blood pressure and release those hormones. And, when we get that high, we want more. We crave more until we’re drowning in a reality that doesn’t exist, and, frankly, never did.

We must remember that investigative journalism is dead. Journalists approach a story, a documentary, a panel discussion or town hall event with the end in mind. They want to highlight scenarios that fit their agenda and purpose. The end is already in sight, they just want to prove it. Instead of gathering facts to see where the facts lead, they gather evidence that proves their position. Which means, we never see the evidence that disproves.

We must remember that life isn’t a salacious headline. Life isn’t a political fight. Life isn’t black or white, and right or wrong. It’s shades of gray, and prisms of different viewpoints.

How we can regain health.

So, what happens when we identify that it’s really them (the media) and not us?

We need to DISENGAGE. For our health!

We need to pull back from our devices and news stories. We need to stay away from social media and documentaries. We need to turn off news shows. In general, we need to unplug.

What can we do instead? You probably can think of a hundred different things to do.

Here’s some ideas to start your list…Take a walk. Learn to love silence. Rearrange the living room or arrange a vase of flowers. Take a drive. Learn a new skill. Build something. Meet a friend for coffee. Host a dinner party with games (games direct discussion away from current events). Garden. Paint. Sew. Visit the art museum. Go on a date. Visit the fair or an amusement park. Watch the sunset. Etc.

Go. Do it. Now. For your health.

“You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.” ~James 3:18 (MSG)