I’ve been in a few conversations recently where a lot of arguing and anger broke out because people were trying to be sarcastically funny, but no one got it.
Many of us — me included — tend to use sarcasm as a verbal resource and there’s nothing wrong with that — in conversation. Real conversation. From my mouth to your ears. And it works best when you are talking to someone you know who can tell by your tone of voice that you’re not seriously saying whatever it is you are saying.
May I suggest to everyone if we are talking about serious stuff — especially politics when everyone is edgy anyway — we might speak directly and avoid sarcasm? In online conversations, sarcasm is frequently misunderstood. Instead of humor, it creates anxiety and as often as not, anger. Unless you know the author and are sure he or she is going to “get it,” say what you mean. Leave the irony and sarcasm for personal interchanges with people who really know you and your voice. Until they invent that “sarcasm font” we all urgently need, we will all make more sense to one another if we say what we mean as simply and clearly as we can.
I’m not suggesting you can’t write satiric or sarcastic material — that would take all the fun out of it. More like in comments and especially on places like Facebook where no one knows anyone very well and total strangers can come and poke their noses into your conversation. I hate accidental wars.
There’s a lot of rage going around. None of us are immune to it. That includes me. I try to make sure I understand what someone is trying to say before I flip out, but … we’ve all got tempers. More than a few of us are like loads of emotional dynamite.
Recently I attended a talk at work regarding avoiding stress. We are in a deadline driven business and there can be a good deal of stress, so a talk on dealing with and reducing stress seemed like a good use of my time in a busy day. The speaker was Dr. Scott Cabrera of Higgins Sports and Spinal Rehab. This caught my interest as I have had a variety of spinal issues and could not help but believe that some of them were caused by stress.
As I expected he had charts and a skeletal figure so he could explain to us about the spine. He showed how we can often tense up and this is bad for the spine and the nerves connected to it. We saw how nerves ran from the spine down the arms and legs. Tension in the back could be the cause of arm and leg difficulty as well as neck and back pain. Things were laid out in a colorful and clinical manner. His main piece of advice was something I did not expect.
“Stop watching and listening to the news,” he declared. “It adds stress to your life and is something outside of your control.”
He went on to ask how many listened to the news on the way to work. I am certainly one of those. I figure it is better to get it in the morning rather than right before bed. The good doctor did not agree. He felt it was the way to start off your day in a bad mood. Do these short radio broadcasts really give you a look at the news? They are just tidbits, usually of the most sensational items. There will certainly be something to upset you as they present a preponderance of bad news. There is no big picture. There is no understanding.
This makes the news somewhat irrelevant. You have not learned anything that will be useful in your day-to-day life. In fact, these tiny slices of news can be misleading. You can draw the wrong conclusions based on the most dire pieces of factoids thrown at you in a report lasting less than sixty seconds. After they have successfully upset you, it is likely to be “Traffic and weather on the 8’s” if you live in a big city. That can upset you too.
The negative morsels broadcast in the never-ending news business can pile on the chronic stress. This can result in the release of cortisol which is not just the item that builds belly fat, but it is also reported to have adverse effects on your immune system. Did you know the news could adversely affect your health?
If you have paid attention to the news in this social media driven era of so-called reporting, you will notice how many people get riled up over tidbits of news. These can be tidbits that are essentially meaningless to the larger story, but enough to provide the “confirmation bias” lurking there for someone. Many use the news or worse, social media memes, as a way to confirm their point of few, rather than to learn anything. This turns conversations and social postings into upsetting arguments. Is this making you happier?
Also helping you to get riled up is the spin put on the news by certain programing. If you are right of center, you may be watching FOX to help confirm your point of view. If you are on the other side of the fence, perhaps you can find your tidbit somewhere else. This chasing down of miniscule pieces inhibits creative thinking. There is no self interpretation of the news, just more proof from your side that the other side is bad.
Since news is largely about things you can not control, you might be happier if you skip the news altogether. Consider this carefully. Is it doing anything more than adding stress to your life?
Many will say it is not possible to live in society without being educated on the issues, but is the news actually educating you on anything? Does learning how many people were shot today bring you closer to the policy decisions, or lack thereof, of gun control. Does a late night tweet on a particular country bring you near to understanding the trade issues between our country and another? There are many questions like this and you know the answer to all of them. No.
What we actually need is true journalism. We need to delve into a story in-depth so we may come away from it with the ability to do critical thinking. Rather than a thirty-second piece, how about a story that takes a half hour to report or an article that takes a half hour or more to read. Yes, many of these are also slanted one way or another, but if you get more than a half-minute of a story, you may stand a better chance to understand it. Further, a thoughtful, even if time-consuming, look at a story is better than the bombardment of tidbits.
Some years ago, a television station in Chicago changed the 10 o’clock news format to be different from the other stations. Rather than a bunch of tidbits, it examined the top stories of the day. It looked into the background and brought the news makers on set to discuss what had happened. The experiment did not last. People gravitated to the pieces thrown out on the other channels. The old format is addicting and people had to have it, no matter how little they actually gained from being upset before bedtime.
Leave the negative tidbit cycle and you will be happier. Although I was not willing to go along with Dr. Cabrera’s assertion we should just stop listening to and watching the news, period, there is great value to avoiding the news as it is currently presented in society. I find the tidbits on sports talk radio more interesting these days.
I wasn’t a typical geek or nerd in high school. I had friends and I was never made fun of or teased. But I didn’t quite fit in. My problem was that I was always considered ‘mature’ for my age. That created a weird dichotomy. I was perceived totally differently by the adults in my life and by my peers.
Grown ups always loved me, including teachers and friends’ parents. Parents did not endear me to their kids when they admonished them to be more like me.
I was an only child and grew up surrounded by loving adults. I hung out with my parents’ friends from an early age. I sat in on grown up conversation at dinner parties from the time I was nine or ten. I actually ate at the dinner table and was a full co-hostess at parties starting in my teens.
I was very comfortable with adults. I was intellectually sophisticated, articulate and had a large vocabulary. I’m told that my friends’ parents commented on my envied vocabulary to my friends. That didn’t help either. But I felt accepted and appreciated by adults. I was more insecure with other kids.
I was really just a mini adult. So to adults, I was a super star. I was considered beautiful and sophisticated, intelligent and witty, charming and delightful. My parents got nothing but accolades about how wonderful I was from their friends and other adults who knew me.
I happen to have a dramatic example of how differently I was perceived by my classmates and by the teachers at my high school. Our senior year musical was “The King And I”. I was in art class when the parts for the play were posted. I was with my best friend, Anne and a few other girls. Someone came running in to tell us that she’d seen the cast list briefly and that I had gotten a lead role. She couldn’t see which one, but I was definitely one of the three female leads.
I wasn’t a good enough singer for the main role of Anna, and everyone knew that my friend Susan would get the part. But there were two other female roles. One was the beautiful Princess, Tuptim, who is sold into slavery into the King’s harem. Tuptim is also the romantic lead. She tries to run off with her lover and they have two wonderful, classic love duets.
The other role was Lady Thiang. She is the King’s oldest and favored wife. She runs the palace and oversees the harem and the children. She is solid, mature and wise but plain, stiff and matronly.
Anne said to me, “You must have gotten the role of Lady Thiang. What else could you be?” Everyone else agreed. That was the only role they could conceive of me playing. In fact, I got the role of Tuptim. Obviously the adults who were casting the play, saw me as the star-crossed young Princess. Yet my friends assumed that I had to be the frumpy old head wife. To my friends, I was a sensible shoe. To adults, I was a glittery spike heel.
I had trouble reconciling the ways I knew I was viewed by adults versus peers. I hated feeling stodgy and overly responsible and serious. I wanted to be fun and cool and easy-going.
My mother used to tell me to be patient. She said I was just more mature than the other kids and that they would ‘catch up with me’ any day now. However, it wasn’t until I reached my thirties and became a parent that the gap between me and my peers began to close. As a young mother, I finally felt that I was ‘like’ my peers and that I could fit in.
Ironically, now, in my sixties, my best friends are around fifteen years younger than I am! Now I’m fun and cool enough to hang out with the younger generation. Go figure!
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