“You set your mind on them being scary, therefore, it becomes scary”
I told my 8-year-old niece on the Fourth of July; she was fluctuating between excitement over the fireworks and being terrified of them. She gave me a confused look by what I said. I explained to her that she was making the situation scarier than it actually was—the fireworks were really far away and so it was highly improbable that she would get hurt by them.
However, as adults we have moments like that too- little improbable fears.
Now there are times that being afraid is the correct reaction for those situations; merited fears should be dealt with appropriately.
I am not talking about those; I am talking about the little fears in our day-to-day grind. For example: I have an unmerited fear of spiders, even though, the large majority of spiders are harmless to humans and they should probably be more afraid of me (a creature 10,000 times its size).
Outside of arachnophobia, there are thousands of little fears that we carry as human beings. Fears that in reality have a high improbability of hurting us, but regardless, they have huge effects on our actions, thoughts, words, time, habits, money, etc.
Even though we are afraid, we are captivated by our fears, which is why we have hundreds of scary movies.
News media creators know this too and so it’s not uncommon to see headlines like this: “What deadly thing is lurking inside your house?” or “Serial Killer loose in your state”. Fear-mongering is not an accident, it’s on purpose—it is known as “if it bleeds, it leads”. The scarier something is, the higher rankings it will get. Social Media is also at fault, in fact a study found that “overall social media consumption is significantly related to individuals’ fear of crime.” .
Particularly social media has an algorithm that calculates what type of videos you watch the most. So if you like cats, you will see a lot cats. If you are strong feminist, you will get a lot of videos against the “evil” patriarchy. If you are looking at a lot of videos about crime, you will be flooded with videos about crime. If you don’t like a political party, you will see a ton of cherry-picked articles and videos that prove that you are right and they are evil.
Violence, crime, danger, times of trouble all exist and we should aware and careful; however, we must discern an appropriate reaction to such fear. Surrounding ourselves with negative overload will make us angry, anxious and many times unnecessarily afraid.
I believe King David knew this was human nature when he wrote:
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil (Proverbs 4:23-27).
I am not saying that media and social media is evil, but realize that their creators make more money when you keep looking, and as humans we are wired to keep looking if it causes a reaction—even if it’s a negative one. Therefore, we must guard our hearts and give careful thought to what we feed it daily and what comes out of it (what we ‘Share’).
People speak the things that are in their hearts. (Luke 6:45)
The more shock that video or article has on our heart and mind, the more likely we are to share. Choose your media and social media carefully and remain steadfast. Be even more careful what you share.
I believe that Proverbs 4:23-27 is incredibly relevant this year, being an election year. It is not uncommon for political propaganda (from both sides) to use exaggerated conspiracies, words taken out of context, historical facts twisted to fit a narrative. The result is crooked fear-mongering propaganda that prays on people’s fears- if you vote for one side you will have Stalin communism, but if you vote for the other you will have Nazis hunting down minorities.
Guard your heart, use wisdom to discern information correctly, search for the truth and research the facts, cut the negative algorithms that affect your emotions and:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)