Welcome to the age of hysteria | openDemocracy

The lack of a sense of belonging – often accompanied by feelings of fear, frustration and anger – is a recurrent factor in outbreaks of hysteria. In that respect, life has arguably returned to how it was in late-19th-century Europe. Not that society is the same as it was at the time of Nordau – too much has changed since then – but there are undoubtedly some very striking similarities.

Facebook’s business model is focused on offering a platform to frustration and anger, emotions that are infectious and in combination with uncertainty often lead to extreme reactions. The more hysterical your post, the more clicks and views you generate and the greater the advertising revenue for Facebook. This also goes for other social media including Twitter, which would surely go bankrupt tomorrow without hysteria.

Facebook and Twitter are increasingly viewed as addictive, and with good reason. Research shows that the chemical dopamine, also known as the happy hormone, is released in our brains when we are successful on social media. Getting lots of likes or followers activates the reward circuit of the brain, while uncertainty strikes when we are unfollowed on social media, making us feel empty.

…policies are spoken of in hysterical terms and with a preference for a macho military vocabulary: ‘war on coronavirus’, ‘war on drugs’, ‘war on terror’. Former President Donald Trump threatened to send in the military to quell the unrest in American cities sparked by the brutal killing of George Floyd by police officers on 25 May 2020.

Welcome to the age of hysteria | openDemocracy