I have a rule — I call it the Inverse Anger Rule. The Inverse Anger Rule states that “in the 21st Century, we are most worked up and most divided over the things which affect our everyday life the least and over which we have the least amount of control.”
In simple terms, we are getting angry over things that do not affect us and which we cannot control.
The prime example of this during the past week was Hydroxychloriquine. An anti-malarial drug has become the latest dividing line in the culture wars. Videos are circulating showing it to be a miracle cure or the way through the COVID pandemic. People argue back with the many studies which show its effectiveness to be, at best, mixed and, at worse, harmful.
But why are we fighting for or against this drug? What do you accomplish by sharing this video in the first place? What is your goal or your desired outcome?
Unless you are a national public health official or some other public leader, you have no control over what does or does not happen with HCQ. Moreover, unless you have COVID and are consulting with your doctor, the relative effectiveness of this drug does not really matter to your daily life.
If you have Lupus, however, the availability of this drug and its preservation for your taking is very important to you. If you have family or friends which need this life-sustaining drug, you are right to fight for its availability for you and its careful study in other applications so as to not exhaust our stockpiles.
Instead of fighting over the thing — a drug, a video, a study — or fighting through memes, let’s start revealing our motivations. Lay bare your thought process behind your posts. Do not blindly support some national celebrity’s positions on a subject or re-post videos one way or other without putting out your reasons behind your posts. Saying, simply, “food for thought,” or “hmmm” (of which I am guilty!) does not uplift or help other people. We are all struggling in various ways through this pandemic and its associate effects.
Try this: the next time you post something, being with, “I am sharing this because I hope we can find a way through this pandemic and I wonder if this is a good way forward.” Or “I am scared of what will happen to school in the future.” Or “I am lonely right now and I wish life could go back to normal.”
If you begin with your motivations, you might find yourself questioning those motivations. I hope so! I know my motivations in the past for engaging in social media have really been about winning or telling someone else they were wrong. Or want to seem smart. Or being angry. Or any number of myriad reasons that were uncharitable and ungodly. We ought to question our motivations.
If you are posting, for example, because you think “those people are out to destroy America,” or “these people are part of a secret cabal of baby-killing pedophiles who want to control me with microchips and so forth,” perhaps take a step back and ask, “if I really believe all that, what do I need to be doing to prepare myself for such a moment? With whom should I be speaking in real life? How can I actually get engage at a local level to prevent this?” If you have world-ending concerns that you cannot shake, you need to speak with others in real life ASAP. Find your pastor. Talk with people with whom you disagree. Talk to local elected officials. Engage your local health department. Talk with your doctor. Make it local.
If you begin with your motivations, others can help meet your needs in that moment with prayer, encouragement, and solidarity. We can join with your mourning, laugh with your joy, and assuage your fears. We can love each other better when we know what we are all going through.
No more shots across the bow. No more artillery drops. Let’s be humans together and be honest about our motivations. Let’s make life local and no longer feed the burning fire that is our culture wars. You might find the help you need, the hope for your fears, the peace for your anger when you lay bare your concerns instead of fighting with fear or writing just to win.