Do You Like Getting Angry?

I’ve never understood horror movies. Seriously, why would anybody watch something whose sole purpose is to scare you? For me, there are two outcomes to a horror movie:

  • It’s lame and boring, and you’ve wasted your time and money watching it just to scoff it off
  • It actually gets to you, and you spend the next week sleeping with one eye open, scared of any dark corners of your house

…both of which are tremendously unattractive to me. So no Mississippi Flamethrower Carnage for me.

As a casual student and observer of human psychology, I’ve looked into this, and have entertained several theories on why people like scary stuff. My favorite is the idea that there’s a thrill associated with surviving a dangerous situation, and scary movies in particular are a way to give ourselves that primal thrill of survival within a framework that our conscious brain knows is safe. You get a little dose of the thrill of surviving the axe-wielding masked maniac without any chance of actually being axe-murdered. Just a theory.

There are other mysteries and “glitches,” if you will, in what people like to subject themselves to. For instance, the unsolved murder shows they air all the time right before the news. Why? Just… why? The only possible result from watching those is perpetual fear of something that has an incredibly low chance of happening. In the United States, you’re more than twice as likely to commit suicide as you are to be murdered, but if we subject ourselves regularly to programming that highlights these rarities, we begin to accept them as eminent reality.

One thing I’ve noticed that the internet brings out of people is the desire to align themselves with a cause and engage in debate in defense of that cause. That’s the euphemistic way of saying that the internet can make people jerks. Folks seem to like being angry, and more and more, popular sites are baiting people by posting inflammatory articles with overblown titles to prey on this odd preference.

To pick on someone from both “sides” of the political aisle, The Huffington Post and The Matt Walsh Blog are both serious offenders on this front. Here’s what happens: they post something with content, title, or both, that’s very polarizing. You see it, and you just HAVE to read it. Because it’s naturally divisive, you’ll likely agree strongly or disagree strongly. And, because all of us want to take part in social justice, we get caught up in comment wars, fueling continued traffic to the site.

In short, you’re being manipulated.

These types of authors don’t necessarily care if what they’re peddling is good for you. That’s none of their concern. What matters is getting traffic and attention, which increase their influence and their financial incentive. Whether or not it’s good for you is irrelevant. You’re giving them what they want just by playing their game.

There are two ways to take this. one is to manipulate and abuse it. People by and large aren’t going to stop clicking on clickbait articles, and if they do, the clickbait will adjust to what people have shifted to. If your interest is renown or financial gain, you might as well. As I thought about this post, I realized that some of my most read posts have been those that have been a timely perspective on a vogue divisive topic.

The other way to take this information is to use it to bolster your resistence to that same manipulation, and to refocus on engaging with content that is actually positive for your heart, soul, and mind.

In See You at the Top, one of the most foundational books in my own development, Zig Ziglar talks about this phenomenon from both sides. On the content consumption side, he talks about how you wouldn’t let somebody walk into your living room and dump a barrel of festering garbage on the floor, and yet, when we watch, read, and listen to garbage, that’s exactly what we’re letting happen to our mind and spirit. Not all content is good for you. Not all opinions are worth listening to. Just because you can eat candy all day doesn’t mean you should. Don’t make the same mistake with your thoughts.

On the content production side he offers something that has encouraged me for years as I’ve posted my thoughts and ideas for growth and betterment. Zig basically says that although feeding people “candy” can give you fame, or money, or renown temporarily, eventually people will get sick of it. The winners in the long term are those who speak with authority, honesty, integrity, and mutual interest, genuinely desiring to provide valuable and helpful content to their audience. I hope it’s true for me, but even if it’s not, please, look for those people. You’ll know them by a consistent message, low levels of hype, and high levels of impact on your life. The content will also be personally challenging. A blog can’t change your life unless you change your behavior as a result of the content. Look for the hard path, and you’ll grow.

Be very wary of the many out there who want to manipulate you. If they can get you curious or angry or scared, so much so that you visit their site and rage at the content, they’ve already won. Protect yourself. Don’t let someone dump garbage in your living room. Consume content with nutritional value for your mind and soul. Read, listen, learn, and grow!

  • Jk

    Travis, It is good to see you write again. I would argue the same about “sad movies” as well. Why spent time and money on something that makes you sad? I don’t watch horror for pretty much the same reasons you mentioned. On the second issue you mentioned, news baiting, even reputed news organizations utilize them these days. CNN uses irrelevant or inflammatory headlines that take them to the level of tabloid journalism. I have also seen them change the headlines for the same news article in a bid to generate more views. Unfortunately, even more reputed organizations like BBC seem to have started employing this last trick. Another thing I have seen websites do is use headlines such as “You won’t believe xxx did THIS”. I make it a point to avoid such kind of headlines. Finally, commenting… I believe that the internet offers voices to be heard of people who otherwise would never get a chance to be heard in public. That would include most of us. In addition, the internet offers an option to hide behind the cloak of anonymity and the confidence that other people are not going to physically hurt them for their words. I have seen that most comments are posted with an intention to aggravate someone.

    PS: Sorry for almost writing a blog masquerading as a comment. :)