It's only fair to share…

Stress is one of the commonest problems we face in the 21st century. Once upon a time stress was brought about through fear of predators or enemies. In later times stress could come from lack of food or exposure to the elements.

Modern stress can be from financial pressures or family and relationship problems. You would think that people would not need to go looking for things to get stressed about.

It is a sign that people have enough to eat and very little to worry about that so many get worked up by things that do not actually affect them. Increasingly people seem to like to take offence on behalf of others and wear it on their sleeves. There is a quest to be the most outraged!

Over the last few months there have been three examples of this. Firstly, there was the furor over Kyle Sandilands’ diatribe against a journalist. Yes it was offensive but isn’t that why people listen to him? He duly apologized. In response to the “outrage” numerous advertisers “pulled out” of his program. Yet in the next ratings survey his ratings went up.

Comments made about an SAS officer on The Circle attracted condemnation.   The presenter apologized and The Circle got a huge amount of free publicity. It will be interesting to see what happens to its ratings.

In the USA Rush Limbaugh set off a storm by attacking a law student who supported insurance coverage of the contraceptive pill. From my knowledge of Rush Limbaugh he plays to an audience who would likely agree with his views. Nevertheless even shock jocks can push too far and with the threat of loss of advertisers he apologized.

In all three episodes the person who made the remarks apologized and the person who was the subject of the diatribe moved on. Those who had no direct involvement were the most outraged and maintained the rage. In fact some of the abuse directed at the “ offenders” was far worse than any of the original comments.

What is most notable is that what people say and what they do seems at variance. Ratings numbers tell us what people actually listen to and watch (yes they are subject to sampling error). It is easy to claim the high moral ground with words but apparently harder to back that up with changing the channel.

Stress remains a major issue in the lives of many. Life really is too short to get into a lather about what is said in the media especially when most of the time people who are outraged the most haven’t even heard it first hand.

I am reminded of an episode of the Simpsons where Ned Flanders is going through recorded videos to see anything, which may be offensive. When he finds something he starts emailing. One of his children asks what he is doing to which he replies (and I may not have this exactly word perfect) “I am imploring a whole lot of people I do not know to pressure a government with more important things to do to punish a man who meant no harm for something that nobody even heard”.

Hence instead of the comments fading they are repeated over and over so that more and more people hear them. Is this really helping? Or is it giving free publicity to the “offenders”?

Do we really need extra stress and aggravation? I do not think so.

So what can we do to have a less stressful time? Rather than getting outraged and raising your blood pressure the best approach is just to be the observer.

Resist getting drawn in. Watch what people do as if it were all just a circus. Because in reality it is!


Update 31/3/2012

This week the station that broadcasts Kyle Sandilands had restrictions placed on it’s licence although Mr Sandilands himself received no penalty as such.According to The Australian newspaper of of 300 complaints to ACMA over 250 came from people outside the broadcast area.

In a karmic way this piece about outrage generated more heat than anything else I have written in three years as a blogger. The criticisms of my choice of example were  fair and I thank everyone who commented here and on Facebook.