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About a week ago, I had a news release pop up in my inbox about a new phenomenon called "buffer rage." Specifically, it called out the millennial generation for experiencing "uncontrollable fury or violent anger" when trying to stream content on their smartphones or tablets through "over the top" services like Netflix and Hulu, and experiencing slow loading times.

Sometimes, the email suggested, this leads to individuals throwing or, in some fashion, breaking their mobile device.

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You mad, bro?

Silly millennials. First it was that they don't eat cereal for breakfast because it's too "inconvenient" and now half of these cord-cutters can't even wait 10 seconds for their movie to magically show up on their pocket computer before they lose their damn minds. I remember back in my day when we actually had to go to the video store and hope someone else didn't rent the movie we wanted to see first. Then we had to go back and return it the next day or pay a late fee. And God forbid we didn't rewind.

Hey, you kids, get off my lawn!

Seriously, though, it seems like we're all just a little angrier these days — look no further than our current presidential election — even when modern convenience is at an all-time high. Hardship, it seems, isn't the reason for our anger, though.

Esquire magazine and NBC News teamed up for a survey released at the beginning of the year that showed more than half of the approximately 3,000 Americans surveyed were angrier at the start of 2016 than they were a year ago. The survey extrapolates the top three factors in our anger, and those, all conveniently beginning with the letter "E," are expectations, empathy and experience.

Also among those surveyed, about two thirds said they get angry at least once a day about something they read or hear on the news.

Oops, my bad.

The survey is an interesting read (Google "Esquire rage survey"), but the part I found perhaps most intriguing was the "Trigger Alert" written in ALL CAPS offered before getting into the data: "In this article we ask questions about race, religion, sex, sexuality, money and a multitude of other potential unpleasantries."

In other words, "This article about anger might make you angry." And part of the reason is because the article tends to group people together by race, gender and political leanings, etc. to see who is angry about what … and who is angry at whom.

But it's these groupings that, I believe, are a big part of our growing anger problem.

People tend to surround themselves with people who are like themselves. From birth, we are raised by parents who instill their value system on us, who look like us and who, generally speaking, teach us how to behave. As we get older those experiences change, but we tend to gravitate toward those who have similar belief systems or, if nothing else, similar interests. We might not be mirror images of personality, but there is usually enough overlap in the Venn diagrams of our life and those we keep closest.

Lilliana Mason, an assistant professor in the department of government and politics at the University of Maryland, College Park, recently wrote a piece published by The Washington Post about her research on anger and why Americans are so angry during this election cycle. She concluded that group identity and "the growing 'sorting' of the American electorate along partisan, religious and racial lines has created the conditions for the anger and intolerance that have been so obvious this year."

Mason goes on to explain that being part of a social group is connected to our individual self-esteem. "With social identities, we have groups whose victories can dampen and even eclipse our own personal failures, and possibly buttress our self-esteem in situations when we need it," she writes. "These identities can provoke prejudice against outsiders who we must compete with."

Which comes back to two of those three E's: expectations and experience. These groupings that we sort ourselves into tend to have similar experiences that create expectations. For example, someone who considers themselves a millennial has generally grown up with fast, instant access to all sorts of media, so when a video doesn't load immediately, expectations fail to be met based on past experience — hence, buffer rage. Whether those expectations are perceived and the reaction warranted are different stories.

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Anger that we see buoying certain extreme political candidates, such as Donald Trump and, to a lesser degree, Bernie Sanders, is based on past experience from our groupings — be it based on economic, race or gender identity, or something else — and the perception that reality is falling short of our expectations.

Are things really that bad? Most people expect things will get better as time goes on, and when it doesn't, they get angry. But it's hard to put yourself in someone else's shoes and understand their experiences that shape their expectations. So instead, we get angry at one another for having different experiences and expectations than our groupings do.

It's a cycle that likely isn't ending any time soon. Now that we're so angry, it's seems like shouting at the top of our lungs is the only way to be heard. And the more we keep boxing ourselves into certain groups and creating an "us versus them" mentality, anger will continue to be all the rage.

Wayne Carter is the editor of the Carroll County Times. Reach him at wayne.carter@carrollcountytimes.com.

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