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Is the Media, and Social Media, Causing Unnecessary Fear?

When I was a kid in the 1960’s I remember seeing a sci-fi movie, The Fly. In the movie, a scientist invents a machine to transport matter, and decides to test it on himself. But when a fly gets inside the machine with him, his experiment takes a scary turn when the man and the fly mutate together. In another movie, The Wasp Woman, the owner of a cosmetics company turns to science to revive her failing business and when she's injected with a youth serum derived from queen wasp venom she become Wasp Woman. And who could forget the movie from 1954, Them, which preyed on the fears of Americans living in the nuclear or “atomic age.” Atomic bomb testing in the desert produces an unexpected result - giant, mutant ants that prey on people.

But as I grew up, I learned that the closer we looked at very small things, or made the very small things seem much bigger, the scarier or more dangerous they appeared. I also learned how to put such things in perspective and consider it from different aspects or ideas. There were times that I was scared of lots of things that I saw as very big scary things, like the Viet Nam war, segregation, the “cold war,” the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, and then Senator Robert Kennedy, drug use, all of the protests, and many other “issues” of the late 1960’s and early 70’s. But, I also didn’t fear riding my bicycle down to the “Thrifty” store to get an ice cream or stay outside after dark and play with some of the neighbor kids.

Everything seems scarier when looked at through the media microscope.

Lately, I feel that I am almost back in the 1960’s and watching the same horror movies over and over, except now the monsters aren’t The Fly, or The Wasp Woman, or even giant ants, but it still may be “them.” You know, “them,” the monsters of people that we look at so closely, cheating politicians, people who commit horrific crimes, school shooters, corrupt business people, and then we look so closely an others for their “positive” qualities, but are we looking too closely? When you look closely, just like looking at an insect under an electron microscope, we may see some things that we didn’t expect, surprise us, or even scares us.

And the microscopes aren’t microscopes that scientists might use, but the microscopes

are still very focused in on very small details. The “microscopes are known as CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Breitbart, Fox News, Huffington Post, USA Today, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Snapchat, Reddit, Flickr, and others. Instead of seeing something once, you’ll see if from many different perspectives, and it will be close-up, looking at all the minutiae and intricate details that we wouldn’t otherwise consider. We wouldn’t otherwise see or know about, except that if gives the media and social media a way to “spin” the story, create “new” information, or “breaking news” to keep people (and ratings) coming to their businesses, websites, and keep people in fear.

Why keep people in fear? Fear is a “hard-wired” emotion. Dr. Ernest Mendes, who has worked with Navy SEALS, explained in a training I attended that fear is one of the “hard-wired” emotions and helps us stay safe by heightening our awareness and increasing our focus. Fear works through the part of the brain that controls emotions and emotional reactions, which means we may react before sending the message to the part of the brain that involves the higher, more critical, thinking. If people are afraid, they are much easier to control…and all you must do is look at what people are afraid of to see how it works.

The Chapman University Survey of American Fears for 2017 are:

1. Corrupt Government Officials, 74.5%,

2. American Healthcare Act/Trumpcare, 55.3 %

3. Pollution of Oceans, Rivers and Lakes, 53.1%

4. Pollution of Drinking Water, 50.4%

5. Not having enough money for the future, 50.2%

6. High Medical Bills, 48.4%

7. The US will be involved in another World War,

8. 48.4%, Global Warming & Climate Change, 48%,

9. North Korea using weapons, 47.5%,

10. Air Pollution, 44.9%.

Consider the reasons for wanting people to be somewhat fearful? It gives media and social media something to keep talking about because people want to know what the dangers are. It gives the media and social media power, specifically, information power. But we sometimes forget to consider that the images and videos that are shown, don’t show everything, and don’t tell the entire story, so again it creates confusion and fear, and allows for division and conflict, which sells much better than people all getting along and everything being safe and…boring!

Camera angle, video editing and many other media “tricks” can cause a perception of something being bigger than it really is. Just look at some of the “protest” videos from around the country. There may be 20-30 “protesters, but if you get the “right camera angle” the crowd can look very deep. Right after writing this portion of the article, I looked up as the local news was talking about a protest at a gun show. The media piece lasted about one minute, and I saw 5 different camera angles, and an interview with a “protester” but counted only 6 people at the “protest” with

no other people visible in the background. Or are the protesters “hired” like many of the protesters were for the presidential campaigns?

Another example are all the advertisements for medications. One particular ad I saw

said, “If you have [symptom 1], [symptom 2], [symptom 3] symptoms, you may be suffering from [this disease]…” and of course, it is possible, which is why I have changed the symptoms, but what is the likelihood that those three particular symptoms could be nothing? And then the ad says, “…check with your doctor and get [advertised medication] now.” Again, this is a fear-based advertisement. What if you had two of the three, or maybe just one? Are you going to make an appointment with your doctor to get it checked, to make sure you DON’T have [the disease]?

All of this makes me question what I see and hear in the media or social media. My suggestion is that you check to make sure what you are seeing, or hearing is not a fear-based tactic, and try to think critically about it. Remember, fear is a hard-wired emotion, so the more you look closely at something or “magnify” every little aspect as if through an electron microscope, the easier you are controlled by those who control the information. Just like the movies of the 50’s and 60’s played on the fears of the Atomic age, maybe we are being “played on” in the information age with information…information that creates fear? So, it may be time to ask if we are all being manipulated by the media, social media, through fear? Are we looking at an ant or a fly so close that we lose perspective of what is really happening, as opposed to what the media and social media want us to think is happening, something much bigger and much scarier than it really is? Remember, “Their perception is their reality, but their misperception is also their reality.” Are you letting the media social media control your reality?

About the Author: Dr. Chris Fuzie is the author of "Because Why?...Understanding Behavior In Exigencies." and of "S.C.O.R.E. Performance Counseling: Save the Relationship, Change the Behavior," and Owner of CMF Leadership Consulting. Chris is a developer/trainer/consultant for leadership of public, private, profit, and non-profit organizations. Chris holds a Doctorate of Education (Ed.D), M.A. and B.A. in Organizational Leadership, and has graduate certificates in Human Resources and Criminal Justice Education. Chris is honorably retired from the Modesto Police Department after 28 years of public service where he last served as the Assistant Division Commander of Investigations.

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