Oh, sure, it has resulted in some good outcomes. Families are able to keep in touch more easily and share pictures of their latest adventures. Old friends can reconnect and have a sort of correspondence, when otherwise they might not have. People are able to be creative and share their creations with the world. But people can also group into like-minded factions, feed on each other’s fears and paranoia, and only acknowledge the information that supports their own perspectives. Social media has supported and sustained the divisions that exist in our society. It has so much potential for good, but social media is like any other tool—it’s only as good as the people whose hands wield it.
I have given a lot of thought to the concept of evil over the years. A big part of me points to the overwhelming evidence of actions and events that could not be called anything else. But my rational side makes the argument that there is a cause for any action, even the most horrific ones. There are certainly evil actions with appalling consequences, but do they come from a place of evil itself, or is there always an explanation (e.g., mental illness)? In the realm of knowing right from wrong and choosing wrong, there are huge swaths of gray, and most people engage in some forms of antisocial behavior, however minor and insignificant—any time spent on highways will prove that point. But what about behavior more significant in terms of its severity and consequences? Why does that happen, and where does it come from?
Sometimes it feels like the world’s gone crazy and you don’t understand people at all. You can’t imagine why things are going a certain way, and you feel a loss of control, with the associated anxiety and stress. You hear and read people saying things that make you furious and frustrated. You can’t imagine how they could think and say those things. You look at events and see them ending in disaster—disaster that could be easily foreseen if only people would listen and understand. It’s easy to stay in a state of simmering rage, along with healthy doses of incredulity and bewilderment. During these times, it’s more important than ever to understand your reactions and emotional state, and take steps toward healthy and constructive responses to what you’re going through.
When we don’t know the answer to this question, we can feel anxious or worried. We like to know what’s around the bend and be prepared for it. Circumstances can be especially difficult when there is a higher chance of something scary or tragic happening—like when we are faced with a serious illness, either in ourselves or in loved ones. But we can prepare ourselves for uncertainty and develop practices that help us cope.
It can be helpful to remind ourselves that nothing is certain. We never truly know the outcome of any circumstances or events, and the best thing we can do is develop a comfort with uncertainty and habits that calm us down and provide perspective.
Having a meaningful life involves caring deeply about our passions and perspectives. The causes we work toward and the effort we put in toward our goals can define who we are. These thoughts and actions are aligned with our values and consistent with our worldview, and it can become very hard to hear anything that goes against them.
When our causes or our work become part of our identity or the basis for how we interact with people, it can be all too easy to take ourselves too seriously and not be open-minded to others’ perspectives and opinions. We want everyone to agree with us and be supportive of what we are trying to achieve, but of course it doesn’t always work that way.
When we go through life with the expectation that everyone we come across should be as passionate as we are, care about the same things we care about, and be interested in everything we have to say, not only will we be disappointed, but we will also come across as arrogant or a know-it-all.