Why is Everyone So Angry?: Behavioral Psychology in the time of Pandemics and Lockdowns
We’re almost 2 years into an ongoing global pandemic. Have you noticed the level of anger and incivility in both the online and offline spheres? We see this on Twitter, in the media, in our day to day life walking to the grocery store. “Karen” behavior abounds everywhere (for those who don’t know what a Karen is: it is a “pejorative term for a white woman perceived as entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is normal”. In some cases, this has sparked off into violence or close to it. Think about the sudden sources of scarcity in toilet paper, or canned foods or pasta in the beginning of the pandemic Q1/Q2 of 2020. And the crazy overreaction many of us have had to otherwise small petty little things.
What is going on? I was talking with a VC friend and he had a good observation that it is certainly due to the strange circumstances we are experiencing globally. Many of us fortunate folks have been used to this world of abundance and freedom of going anywhere and anytime. With the shutting down of travel, mass lockdowns, the lack of social contact, supply chain issues leading to a reduction of products in stores and the economic uncertainties we’ve undergone, we’ve been put in a constant state of “Fight or Flight” mode. Fight or Flight “is an active defense response where you fight or flee. Your heart rate gets faster, which increases oxygen flow to your major muscles. Your pain perception drops, and your hearing sharpens. These changes help you act appropriately and rapidly.”(Source: Healthline, 2021)
This is an important function on how we deal with stress and danger. But the problem is we are not supposed to be in this mode for a sustained period of time. It wears on the body and mind very heavily. We have now literally been in a constant state of “Fight or Flight” for almost 2 full years now. No wonder so many of us have been strained to the limit despite comparatively comfortable material lives (especially to those who have gone through war, or famine or massive economic downturns.) Everyone is like a rubber band pulled to the limit and about to snap.
And the scary part of this is the pandemic and the consequent government reactions are not done yet. Many parts of Central Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand shut down again in the winter of 2021. So we are not out of the woods yet as they say.
Why do I write about this? I do this to help us understand what’s happening around us and how this could be affecting us personally. This is so we do not overreact to what could be a very small things in the bigger scope of life. Things like the rude jerk in the grocery check out line. Or the Driver cutting you off on the road. Or the rude post office clerk serving you. This is something I have certainly noticed that trigger me & sets off my fearsome temper. Meditation, measured breathing and exercise have been personally very helpful to me for managing myself for these situations.
We need to be more patient, civil and kind to each other and understand that we are all going through this together. For the first time in a long time, we literally are all in it together. It’s also the only way we will get out of this mess too.