Posts made in October, 2020

Header image via wikicommons. Do you doomscroll frequently? Read to the end; I promise you’ll leave the page with at least one tool to help make you a calmer person during this global crisis and the election. You’re stressed about the coronavirus or the election. You jump online and start scanning headlines on your favorite news website or social media. With each headline, you’re feeling more stressed, not less. What is going on? This article will tell you. If you clicked through to this article, you’ve proven the central thesis of the article—scary headlines hijack your executive reasoning. THE HIJACK It is objectively false that most of the information you’re consuming during this crisis will help you deal effectively with the crisis. In fact, most of it is making you less able to deal with it. News organizations (and bloggers) grab your attention by deliberately hijacking your brain’s limbic system. Writers and editors are in an hourly arms race to see who can most quickly heighten the arousal of fear in the brains of their readers and TV watchers. It’s actually quite easy to bypass the executive part of the brain that is responsible for judgment and directly activate the emotional limbic system (also known as the paleo-mammalian cortex) without your awareness or consent. The simplest way to do this is to arouse FEAR (even putting that word in all-caps can arouse the limbic system of sensitive people). The human brain evolved to pay more attention to threats than to signals of safety. Paying attention to that which scares you will keep you alive. (Scandal and sex work really well to grab your attention too but that’s a different post.) “Yeah but this crisis is real!” Of course it is. But if you can’t be discerning about the information you consume, you’re putting your health and that of people you love at risk. There is a way to be more discerning and I’m going to share that later. ALL HEADLINES ARE CLICKBAIT I can hear you now: “I ignore clickbait headlines.” Umm, no you don’t, and I can prove it—you just clicked the headline of this article. Even I have a hard time ignoring hair-on-fire headlines, and I know how they work. All headlines are clickbait because they have to be. Your attention span is measurably shorter than it was before the advent of the web and the competition for your attention is savage, even on a single page. A check of one digital newspaper’s front page today revealed one hundred headlines. News is a business and the business is selling advertising. Informing the public is not a metric...

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