We live in the age of the easily-offended. Where our outrage and anger is set on a hair-trigger. Social media has given us a platform to rant and rave. It is the 21st century soap-box. But is it worth it?
What is the cost of being so quick to offense and outrage?
In the moments during and following the social media red-mist the following takes place within your body:
— Hypothalamus ramps ups and signals the pituitary gland to get to work.
— Pituitary releases hormones to the adrenal medulla.
— Adrenal medulla releases cortisol.
— Cortisol promotes muscle contracture; pupil dilation; suppression of GI tract (digestion); heart rate increase; amygdala becomes hyper-aroused which can lead to emotional tagging in the hippocampus (sets you up to repeat this response in the future).
— Prefrontal cortex becomes inhibited (this is where present-time awareness, planning, motivation, decision making etc happens).
Not a good picture really. What basically happens is the outrage primes our system for a physical response (flight or fight) which tapping on a keyboard can’t satisfy.
And because of the tagging in the brain, we can become pre-programmed to be the angry bear-trap in other areas of life. The person cutting you off in traffic now deserves to die a painful death. The kids playing up in the backseat leads to an explosion of rage. The coffee shops gives you a flat-white instead of a latte- AARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!
So again, is it worth it?
Being quick to offense is grossly damaging to so many of your systems inside your body- as well as relationships around you. So next time you feel compelled to respond to a trivial Facebook post with an angry tirade, consider your own health. Maybe just take a few deep, calming breaths. Run around the block (flight)- or punch a pillow a couple of times (fight).
Let the anger go, because it isn’t worth it.
*Thank you to my colleague James Smith for keeping me on track with the neuroanatomy/physiology/biology!