OPINION — 2019 has dealt us some horrendous blows.
The digital waves are abuzz with heart-wrenching stories. People are sad and scared. There is nothing the matter with an appropriate level of somberness applied to the aftermath of tragedy. It’s okay to be sad. The problem is the same people are also laughing.
A scientist will tell you that emotions are a product of the limbic system and that emotions are necessary for identifying danger, safety and even an appropriate mate. A scientist will go on to tell you about how the hippocampus helps retain those emotions in the form of memories. But a scientist is just as vulnerable to experiencing emotions as you and I.
Today there is an emotional tolerance being created. In seconds we go back and forth, between emotionally pungent posts that make us sad, to all those little jokes and antidotes that are rich with levity.
Both the sad and the happy stimuli are shared online within a short amount of time of each other. On social media, this is, for the lack a better term, a “bipolar timeline.” You have a bipolar timeline when you find yourself sharing a heart-wrenching story of adoption then share tragic news then immediately after share something irreverently hilarious.
I don’t know what that says about a person. I don’t dare guess if this is a bad or good sign, about the health of the owners of bipolar timelines. I couldn’t say how it might affect society. I am not an expert on the subject; but neither were the people who created our first social media platforms. And now it is undeniable that social media is forever changing the behavior of society in a radical way.
So, I’m just asking the questions: Should there be an appropriate measurement of the time passed after posting something sad, before sharing something hysterical? Does this behavior speak toward our mental health? And if so, is it healthy or unhealthy behavior to create a bipolar timeline?
Via social media, we invest the entirety of our limbic system’s functions into stories of real-life horrible acts. We experience the fullness of real-life emotions. Some of us cry. Seconds later, we find ourselves laughing at a cat stuck face down in a boot. This is a new and never before tested way that humanity experiences emotions. True, cable television had commercial breaks. Before social media, you might go from a sad Hallmark special, to an up-tempo furniture supply commercial, but the change in the TV’s emotional tone is nowhere near as drastic as what happens on social media.
Can the human hippocampus handle it? The hippocampus is the part of the brain that turns emotions into memory. Whether it was created by God or evolved over 200,000 years of hunting and gathering, can the typical hippocampus even keep up? Adults over a certain age have never been exposed to this kind of immediate emotional back and forth, until social media. Our kids will be the first ones who have lived their entire lives under these conditions! What will that mean for them?
There is nothing I can find anywhere, except for the definitions of the words fickle, flighty and bi-polar, that even come close to explaining a “normal” person’s social media timeline. Never before have we been able to go back and forth from being on the verge of crying to being elated with laughter in just a matter of seconds. It seems like the lights are being violently switched on and off until the significance of either dark or bright is blended together — until neither condition no longer possesses its former potency. And who knows what this is doing to us?
Submitted by QUINTON SMITH, Washington City.
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