The Cost of Crazy

I hope this is not a sign of age, yet lately it seems as though the world has gone crazy. I suspect a great deal of my perception is based upon all the negative stories and images available thanks to hyper competitive media sources. For the past several weeks I've been afraid to access a screen anywhere (including online) because of all the "Zombie" stories and images.

Since elementary school when I first saw the infomercial of a frying egg ("this is your brain on drugs"), I've been pretty aware that drugs are bad.bad.bad. So why are people still making such dumb choices? Although there will always be terrible stories to tell, my repulsion is in why the media is showing such graphic imagery without providing a choice as to whether we want to see it or not. Are ratings so important - and what does it say about us as humans that so many of us are clearly clicking on these links (or they wouldn't keep providing them).

I used to love scary movies - before they became grotesque. Now I refuse to watch any scary movie. Remember the campy thrillers from the 70s and 80s? The suspense building up to a crescendo while you tensed in dread for the moment when the bad guy was going to jump out and kill teenagers about to "make hay"? Today's villain makes Jason look like a boy scout. It seems as though cinematography and technology have advanced dramatically and many images and story lines include a ton of realistic gore/horror as well as a callous disregard for human life or boundaries. I believe the Blair Witch Project was the movie that cured any interest I will ever have in scary movies (I know, I know but we saw it opening night with friends before word got out that it was a 100% fake documentary. The last five seconds of that movie had me sleepless for weeks.)

Yet I can choose to see a film - bloody images and stories plastered on newsy web sites feel much more intrusive as I am not expecting to see them pop up. Some of these sites are not offering a link with a warning - which limits my choices. Whereas I could visit a site and not choose to select, see or read about cannibalism or murder (title tag only), now my choice is being narrowed to whether or not to visit the site period.

This is also why reality TV has no interest to me. I already know how terrible people can be. I don't need to witness how heinous people can be when trapped on an island, a house or on a stage. We watched five seconds of a funniest videos show last week and it has changed considerably from when it first came out. A lot meaner. A grown-up hitting a kid in the head with a bat is not funny. Anyone getting truly hurt where they can't get up is NOT funny.

To be honest, we began watching the Bad News Bears recently with our son when I had to turn it off. PG apparently meant rated R in the 70s. Another indication of how our sensibilities have changed. It seems we have always had a penchant for the dark side yet our thoughts as to what is appropriate for general audiences has shifted. I'd like to declare that I am not a prude, nor am I a cowering flower. There are shows with violence I will watch because the content is intelligent and keeps me guessing plots. I just want to preserve the boundaries of decency and respect for human suffering.

If I do turn a screen on, it is not an indication of interest in bloody images and news featuring the worst stories imaginable (and some that are not.) There is a cost to all this crazy. Numerous studies indicate that teenage anxiety and depression have risen dramatically in the last 10 years. My hope is that the youngest generations will be turned off by the extremism of our current media culture. Although not a fan of censorship, today's unprecedented access to data requires a certain self discipline in what we fuel our minds with. History has shown a societal cycle of returning to grace after periods of more callous dissolution. It typically started with smaller voices declaring that it was enough - today it may be as simple as turning away from the things unhealthy to our spirits, including toxic people and programming. At the end of the day, the cost of crazy is a voluntary price.

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