The internet and TV news is jam-packed with fear porn. Fear porn is stories and ideas that intend to fill us with fear. Unfortunately, many of us are addicted to this kind of information and even seek it out. Even though it isn’t good for us, or even what we want, we keep consuming it, either by choice or because it is the only show in town.
I recently read an article in the Guardian, that was about a woman who decided she wasn’t going to have children because of climate change. The article went into how there is a growing number of people who shared and follow this ideal.
The general position of the movement is that people are the problem. Or better yet, too many people are the bane of all the earth’s ailments. This means to followers that having kids contributes to the existential crisis of global warming. Halfway through the article, it is pointed out that having fewer kids will not have much of an effect on climate change. In essence, the assumptions about the problem are deeply flawed.
It Is About Fearing The Future
At this point, the article changes it’s tone and goes into how these people believe the world is going to hell and that the future will be horrible. It explains that the amounts of pollution going forward, is going to be severe and temperatures will be so high, that the world won’t be a safe place. I may be exaggerating the point, but the general sense is that these people believe we are in environmental end times.
I get the feeling that many people fear that the world is going to hell. Some also believe we are destroying everything mother nature has given us. Along the same lines, some people think we are essentially creating a lifeless future.
No doubt, this could be a possibility. But it seems that a lot of the information we get from the media is full of a sense of fear. This fear, in turn, encourages us to stay inside and avoid all the terrible things that might happen if we go out. Being stuck inside and afraid of going out, we consume more media that then fills us with more fear. As evidence of this, my mother warns me about going for walks at night; she believes it is dangerous to be outside after dark.
It may be true, that the world is headed to hell in a hand-basket; and all our fears could be real. But public intellectuals like Steven Pinker, a Harvard Professor, suggest we live in the safest most peaceful times in all history.
Blame The Media
But the mainstream and alternative media are trying to make us believe the opposite. It is not all their fault; we seek it out and love junk about how terrible the world is. As an example, look at the popularity of true crime stories. These stories are manufactured entertainment about horrific events. In this sense, they make crimes more real, even though most of us would have forgotten about them.
The media is part of the problem; no doubt they make a point of focusing on how horrible things are. In part they have to because that kind of content pays the bills, fixed eyes are great for advertising. And to some extent, this is what people want, at least that is what gets them to read and watch more. And these days, in a world led by ad-clicks and attention, content creators have no other choice.
Of course, amazing things are happening all the time, but they don’t pay the bills, so they get less coverage. But even worse, when it does get covered, we tend to write it off as cynical or sad. In a sense, a lot of good news is instead a different kind of bad news.
Could This Be Fear Porn
This brings us back to the idea of fear porn. I can’t say the only reason why people watch porn is because they want quick and visceral sexual satisfaction. But that seems to be the case and is also the case with fear porn. Rather than beating around the bush, fear porn jumps right into inciting fear.
The reasons why fear porn is so popular may have something to do with our biological responses to it. On one hand, it may induce a fight-or-flight state into our minds. Equally terrifying, we may live in a society addicted to the stress hormone cortisol. Either way, fear porn appears to exploit these two systems for nefarious purposes.
I am an occasional consumer of fear; my flavour of choice tends to be financial information. I’d argue that it is true, but in reality, it is nothing more than fear-inducing facts. You could even argue, it serves no purpose other than filling me with fear about the future. The facts may be accurate, but I can’t do anything to stop what is coming, so being fearful makes little sense.
Watching this kind of ‘news’ makes me feel strange, but afterwards, I seek similar feelings. Along the same lines, I have a friend who is into AI and automation, for him that is the kind of fear he seeks. This is like my fear of the economy and the lady from the articles fear of global warming.
The lady in the article was avoiding having children because of the hellish future she saw. I would suggest, that the only way one could have come to that kind of conclusion, is by watching way too much fear porn.
This isn’t to say the concerns of fear porn aren’t real, who knows what the future will bring. But, all this fearful information is hurting us and making our lives more stressful. Fear, uncertainty and doubt are at memorable highs, yet statistics show, this is one of the safest times in history.
It seems the personalized internet has created a market for fear. Because of this, we end up needing or getting more of it all the time. This pollutes our world views and makes it seem like the world is worse than it is. Like any addiction, growing desensitization leads to an increasing need for a stronger dose.
We Can Get Over The Addiction
If you discover you have picked up a fear porn addiction, it is best to accept that it is happening. From there, you can make a point of trying to control it. The biggest problem with this kind of addiction is that it fills us with fear. But it also convinces us into thinking we need more info as things can only get worse. Of course, we may have an accurate view of the future, but the future isn’t here, so what’s to say we are right? Even more, why worry about things we can’t control or do anything about?
From my personal experience, realizing I was addicted to fear, helped me get over it. Once I changed my consumption, the algorithms picked it up and suggested different content. This, in turn, makes it easier to avoid the fear I was consuming in the past.
It is natural to fear the future because the future is unknown. But rather than seeking lousy news, we should try to create a better world today. Forget about the ‘facts’ and focus on what you can do now. If the future looks terrible, stop looking to the future and focus on making now better. If you can make now better, then the future will follow. It all comes down to the idea that you can only make the world a better place by focusing on what you can do yourself.
Knowing that clicks and attention drive our online lives, it is fair to say that someone is profiting off of our fear. If that is the case, how can we even be sure we are being told the truth? Could instead our fear be feeding the beast in an attempt to increase profits? Either way, too much information about a terrifying topic isn’t doing us any good.
If the above doesn’t work, look around. Things are way better than they seem from the information on our screens. Try it for a day or two, avoid everything online and only watch what happens around you. You will be pleasantly surprised to see how peaceful and calm the world is. Life may be getting worse in some ways, but it is also getting better in many other ways.
We should avoid or ignore fear porn, then it will be easier to embrace a more positive outlook. Because after all, the world is a pretty safe place for most of us.