We think we can be rational, when we find out something isn’t true, we ignore it and it has no affect on our decisions, right? Maybe not.
” When we see outlandish information, even when we know it is untrue, it sways our judgment. This is especially true if the information appeals to us on an emotional level. Our emotions do affect our decision-making and we are more likely to accept information that matches our desired emotional state. Fear makes us more attuned to risk information and anger makes us less aware of risk. “
As Camille points out, studies suggest that our brains have evolved to take in any and all information that we can, and keep it. Even when it’s not true, and we know it’s not true, it still stays in there and has an emotional impact. She shares a classic study where both scenarios wound up at the same result, but the response was massively different when another bit of information was suggested, and then proven false.
Think about it, we know the vast majority of abused children are not randomly abducted, they are abused by people they already know and trust. Often within the family. Yet, what do we see as breaking news in the media? Any story of a child being abducted is on a non-stop broadcast loop, leading many people to believe it happens way more often than it does, and then when we see fake news stories about the millions of kids being abducted in parking lots, which isn’t true, but it still stokes that fear response in our DNA. That fear response then has a great influence in how we act and make decisions, even though we know it was stoked by false information.
We know millions of kids aren’t being abducted, but we share stories that imply that, literally, anyone, anywhere, at any time, is at risk of being abducted. You know, “just in case”. What we don’t realize is that, we are actually contributing to the fear response of everyone who sees that, making them more anxious about strangers, more nervous about public spaces, and less likely to be as fearful about the people they already know, who, statistically, are more likely to be dangerous.
I believe this is why social media has made us more anxious. Not because it is intending to be harmful, but because it’s so easy to be influenced and have an emotional reaction to what we see on social media. It’s the immediacy of our response, and the fact that this information about our brains, is no secret. Marketers have known this for years. Con artists have known this for years. Propaganda machines, have known this for years. Social media is an absolute playground for them. So, what can we do about it? I have talked about this for years now, so rather than repeat myself, I’ll quote Dr. Camille Johnson from the article below:
If you find your social media full of emotionally-charged messages, don’t “like” them, don’t give it a heart or anger face—that just signals to Facebook that it needs to send you more emotionally-charged messages. Don’t click on those posts and do unfollow pages that provide daily (and hourly) doses of anger and fear.
And, remember that we are all purveyors of information. So, when you see a post that makes you feel outraged, stop before reposting. Wait 24 hours (or two hours) and then decide if this is information that needs to be shared and why. Think about your goal in sharing the information.