The Reflex – How We Default to the Angriest Response

Yes, we all expect reactions to political news to drip with contempt. Many news articles now seem crafted to maximize fury. But what about macaroni and cheese?

The other day I checked the comments on a popular magazine’s post with a mac & cheese recipe. One reaction was particularly striking: “I hate that pasta.” I had no idea that cavatappi could elicit hate. It’s likely the commenter didn’t mean actual hate, but just simple dislike.

How about blind dates at Walmart? The first episode posted by the retailer to Facebook featured a man and a woman and it’s really cute. The second episode featured two gay men, which sent some Christian fundamentalists into a tizzy. Their stated concern is this is an assault on traditional marriage. The third episode featured a white woman and black man. Is Walmart attempting to engage in the culture wars? I think it’s really just trying a creative way to get viewers to watch long videos showcasing Walmart’s wares, from Doritos to stuffed animals to athleisure clothing and toiletries. The videos were released for Valentines Day.

I hope they create new ones because I thought it was all very cute. I agreed with the gay guy who insisted that any good cook needs a cast-iron skillet. Plus, his date turned out to be a fan of puns. He said he had “a new pan of attack.” They proceeded to debate whether a 3-in-1 shampoo-conditioner-soap product is all that it claims to be. I’d rather debate that than whether these guys have a right to be openly gay without offending anyone.

Apparently another “Don’t” is don’t share peer-reviewed medical information. A community forum I follow posted a news story about a study showing there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Wait for it: “I don’t believe this is the right platform for this,” a comment wrote.

Really, because the number of unvaccinated children is rising in Texas, a state lawmaker here wants to get rid of vaccine requirements because he thinks antibiotics can treat measles (they can’t; it’s a virus), and outbreaks are occurring in areas with pockets of unvaccinated children. So, here we have a lady offended by a woman who created a local community forum introducing scientific fact regarding a relevant public health concern. No science allowed! The community shouldn’t discuss public health issues!

I admit I had a flash of aggravation when I saw the following comment on another story about the MMR vaccine study. A man wrote, click on link before starting argument. The link being “How Vaccines Cause Autism.” I thought, oh boy, someone else linking to non-medical nonsense. Well, click on the link for a laugh; the content of the page simply states: “They don’t.”

Surely, we can all agree that a natural disaster is terrible, right? A major newspaper posted drone video of post-tornado devastation in Alabama and a commenter felt the need to dis the citizens of the state and their alleged “batshit crazy religiosity.” How considerate and empathetic to insert such an opinion. I had been watching the local coroner’s press conference and was moved to tears when he spoke of the families of the dead. Asked what people could do to help, he related someone was offering to help pay for funerals. He also suggested people offer prayer. To me, prayer is always a good idea. Call me crazy.

What elicits anger that we can all get behind? Child abuse, animal abuse, lies, cheating, stealing, graft and racism…. this is not an all-inclusive list. Now, for the latter, we are witnessing great fury and anger at, wait for it, charcoal-activated facial masks. That is actually happening. There are also people who contend the Zulu krewe celebrating Mardi Gras in the same manner they have for a hundred years are racist for painting their faces black to celebrate the Zulu tribe. Most of these revelers are black themselves, though. It’s definitely a statement, but are you racist when carrying on a tradition meant to celebrate your ethnicity in the face of racism?

Arguably, tuning out all the aggravation – your own and that of others – is a healthy thing to do. Haven’t we all felt the cathartic relief of unfriending someone on Facebook after hearing too much craziness. But, if something really concerns you, think about ways you can constructively challenge it. Try crafting a thoughtful response in your own comment. Decide if there is some civic or charitable activity you can do to contribute to positive vibes and results. Staying engaged might just be more useful than giving up.