This brain-breaking most often happens in connection to politics, particularly amid the sheer intensity of this year’s political scene. There is “a type of person who has become a trope of sorts in our national discussion about politics and disinformation: baby boomers with an attachment to polarizing social media,” Charlie Warzel wrote in a New York Times report Tuesday. Warzel focused on social media’s role in brain breaking — he spent several weeks in the “information hellscape” of two such boomers’ Facebook feeds — but the phenomenon isn’t confined to social media. It’s our entire media climate. That also includes cable news, which has perpetual motion and emotional manipulation in common with the internet. The brain brokenness this climate produces has become a trope with good reason.
Whenever I bring up the subject of broken boomer brains to my peers, the response is the same: My dad is just like that. My mom does that too. I’m begging my parents to stop watching Fox. I’m begging my parents to stop watching MSNBC. I would break their TV if I could. I would set up parental controls on their internet if I could. I tried to get my stepdad off Facebook — I ended up having to unfriend him on there instead. They’re always on Twitter. They’re always on YouTube. They’re always posting memes. They’re always texting links. We can’t have a conversation about politics anymore. They’re always dialed up to 11.
And then, the gutting conclusion, repeated to me four times just in the last 24 hours: Well, at least it’s not only my parents? At least there’s not something uniquely wrong with the people I love.