The reign of emotions brings losses, too. This post deals with a first – rather obvious – set of losses: As emotions rule our private, professional, and public lives, across all these domains we lose the willingness and ability to live with (and despite of) things we don’t like. The chains of “like” bind us into searching and clinging to what we makes us feel good; and the haters’ paradox makes us pull away from what we dislike (while at the same time, urging us to express our dislikes loud and clear). With this, there’s little room for an environment which contains unpleasant episodes, unwanted encounters, or outright unbearable experiences.
Let’s look at the benefits of emocracy. As emotions rule our world, what do we gain? At first glance, quite a lot: Who wouldn’t appreciate a society in which human beings are aware of their emotions, can freely express how they feel, and receive respect from others for their feelings? In this vein, “empathy” – the ability to understand and share the feelings of others – has become a universal spell for our times, from raising kids to caring for the sick, from marriage to management, and from “The Empathic Civilization” to “Empathy and Democracy” and “Digital Empathy”. So the rule of emotions, it seems, carries an inbuilt prerequisite for these emotions to be shared, heard and listened to. Emocracy’s benefits come with a catch.
Hate is the hallmark emotion of our times. Amongst the emotions ruling our private, professional, and public lives, hate is the ringleader. First, psychology’s curse equipped us with the tools to manage emotions, a dream of eternal bliss, and the notion of emotions as “what makes us human”; then, the “like button” and the “people who…”-algorithm on social media tied us into the mental state of pre-teen kids, tightly spun into our wants and needs. In this state of heightened emotional vulnerability, humanity fell prey to the stratagems of hate: the darkest lord of emotions, more enduring than anger, jealousy, or pride, and the cruelest mastermind of aggression, violence, and warfare.
More than in any previous period of human history, emotions rule our private, professional, and public lives. How, when, and why did the shift from keeping emotions “under cover” towards today’s extrovert emocracy take place? I’m exploring this question in a few posts of which this is the second one. In the first post, I explained Psychology’s Curse: the role of psychology and psychotherapy in describing the tools by which emotions can be managed; creating a dream of a blissful-ever-after emotional state in this life; and upgrading emotions to “what makes us human”. In this post I will talk about the role of social media in bringing emotions to center stage, and in particular about the impact of the “like button”.
We live in an age of emocracy. In stark difference to most of humanity’s history, emotions overtly govern our private, professional, and public lives. In this and a few subsequent posts, I will explore the question of how, when, and why the shift from keeping emotions “under cover” towards today’s unembarrassed emocracy happened. My first hypothesis is: The rise of emocracy was strongly favored by the invention and (later) popularization of psychology.
Emotions rule our world. This in itself is not news. Ever since Cain slayed Abel, and ever since Zeus fell in love with Europe, human behaviors have been driven by aggression, passion, and all their cousins. But in the last years, something has shifted: In the past, quite regardless of culture and environment, human beings mostly saw emotions as something unruly that had to be contained. In the very recent present, however, emotions have taken center stage in our personal, professional, and public lives. We live in an age of emocracy – but without ever having explicitly agreed on its constitution, principles, laws, and practices. This is a problem.
Egal, was passiert: Die Schuld bekommen dieser Tage immer einzelne Menschen. Der Fußballbundestrainer soll zurücktreten, weil die deutsche Fußballnationalmannschaft (inklusive Tross) in den Vorrundenspielen mies gespielt hat. “Das Drama der Angela Merkel” titelt selbst die meist abgewogene Zeitung DIE ZEIT in dieser Woche – und reduziert die komplexe Frage der zukünftigen Regelung von Zuwanderung nach Europa auf eine persönliche Machtkrise der Kanzlerin.