The Pain/Pleasure Principle

black and white doodle of an angry man looking into a computer monitor

People often ask me why I’m no longer on the radio and whether I miss it. Radio and I had a long love affair. I loved it and it mostly loved me back. After a long career for which I’m eternally grateful, I grew frustrated with corporate owners who didn’t care about radio. When these giant companies swallowed up smaller players, the CRTC forced them to take radio stations even though all they wanted was TV. TV – specifically flagship TV stations in Toronto – is the favourite child. Radio is an afterthought. No, I don’t miss it. I miss the people, not the culture or the work.

The main reason I left my career is quite simple. Remember Dr. Joy Browne? On her pioneering, syndicated radio talk show she often discussed how people “move toward pleasure and away from pain” as a way to explain human behavior. We don’t even know we’re doing it sometimes. I knew it. When the perceived pain becomes greater than the perceived pleasure, it’s time to check out. When you work for a media giant and you’re told to go and buy your own staples for your stapler, it’s a little disheartening.

Social media trolls and attackers were another part of it. Strangers can be so awful. I saw a man the other day at a stoplight who typified social media outrage to me. He was picking his nose. He looked at me looking at him in horror and carried right on doing it. No embarrassment. No doubts. He’s invisible in his car, right? What I think doesn’t matter! I’m not even real! HE’S ONTO SOMETHING!

A Deeper Dive

I contributed a few of my experiences and thoughts on social media to an article for Good Times magazine written by Wendy Haaf. It helps explain the effect it can have on you when you’re pounded by it day after day. (Read the article HERE) If you don’t have to deal with social media on behalf of your company, consider yourself fortunate. And if you deal with it because people are criticizing the company, and not you personally, that’s also not so bad. The constant negativity can get to you but it’s not about you and that makes a difference.

Another friend quit Twitter this week because it’s such a cesspool of anger and antagonism. I went on another block fest after confronting someone who’s sharing videos of a debunked, disgruntled ex-employee of Pfizer who continues to lie about what’s in their COVID vaccine. “Mainstream media won’t touch her because she’s LYING!” “Mainstream media are IN ON THE CONSPIRACY!” Lather, rinse, repeat. My brother has all but given up on Twitter because of the useless vitriol on it. This fact offers me an opportunity to share a photo of my brother and his dog, Nacho, in his back yard last weekend.

Kevin and Nacho on a paving-stone walkway with fall colours on the trees behind them

I just finished the book Shrill by Lindy West, a self-described fat, feminist writer. She has an incredible gift for explaining the phenomenon of online trolls and why/how people feel that someone else’s fat body is their own issue. Lindy is smart and outspoken, so, naturally, her size is what detractors target most. Her husband is conventionally attractive so onlookers assume they’re roommates or pals. It goes on and on and the bottom line is, what the hell does her weight have to do with anyone else? Nothing! That’s what. Like gay marriage or someone who’s transgender, another person’s fatness has nothing at all to do with anyone else’s life. Lindy argues (successfully, I believe) that disgust over her body prompts people to blame “health concerns” and such for their negative reactions. So, look away for goodness sake and leave the woman alone.

Critics Come for Everyone

Years ago, a younger TV colleague quit her job as a reporter. She epitomizes the so-called physical ideal of blond, thin, and beautiful and was learning on the job, as we all have done. The negative bullshit thrown her way was overwhelming. When you’re on TV it can be a hundred-thousand times worse than radio or print/online. Everyone has thoughts on what you wear, your hair, your smile, you name it – if you’re female, that is. This young woman cited social media harassment as one of the reasons why she was getting out of TV and it opened my eyes. You mean I don’t have to suck it up and take it? This IS harmful and people know it?

Frankly, younger generations are much more savvy about this stuff. They won’t put up with it. My generation was taught to “toughen up” and that dealing with unwarranted criticism or harassment is “part of the job”. Clearly, as I’ve long suspected, my younger colleagues are smarter. But my generation is learning. A few prominent women TV stars in this country have recently stood up for themselves and stopped their harassers with criminal charges. Others are monitoring them via the police. I still know people. I hear things. It’s an ongoing, constant problem.

Some pros appear to let the vilest of insults roll right off them. Or do they? Do the harsh and unwarranted words of others affect them in a way that’s not obvious? Social media only reveals the sunny side of life if that’s what people want to show. It goes back to Dr. Joy Brown’s philosophy. The pain of being attacked isn’t greater than the desire to do that particular job or live that life. If the scales of pain/pleasure tip the other way, I hope they gain the strength to leave and find a less painful way to make their living.

13 thoughts on “The Pain/Pleasure Principle”

  1. This may seem like a post hijack, but you’ll know it’s from the heart, Lisa.
    You know how I often say the “at leasts” are for the people who have lost loved ones to say? (Nobody else gets to say an “at least” to try and ease the pain of those suffering; it minimizes their loss and trivializes their trauma). Here’s my point: AT LEAST our daughter, a news anchor on 580 CFRA at the time of her death in 2015 didn’t live to be targeted by the social media miscreants and monsters who live to take down radio/TV anchors/hosts and public figures, newspaper contributors, etc.. There is no help/protection/preparation for these often young and minimally experienced media people. They’re thrown to the lions. She would have suffered massive pain from the barbs and insults that would not have been about her, but which she would have taken in because she gave the job her everything. It would have stressed her unbelievably. Of course, she might have been a victim of the swath of job cuts at her Bell radio station in Ottawa by now too – who knows? I’m just glad I didn’t have to watch her suffer from the cruelty of social media directed AT the media. There’s an “at least” for ya.
    Great post.

    1. Not a hijack at all, it’s insight. And it’s an accurate and sad commentary on how people in media are served up as lambs to the social media slaughter. And young women are the sacrificial lambs. Men do receive negative SM assaults as well but it’s more likely to be about the content they present rather than something personal. Thanks for sharing this, Erin. You and I have talked about it and I’m glad you shared it.

    1. Fascinating article, thanks Linda. We know that holding negative thoughts about ourselves is detrimental. Hearing them articulated by someone else, even a stranger, just freakin’ hurts.

  2. I still abide by, “if you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all”. I feel horrible reading about the pain that negative people cause others.

  3. The old adage: “Sticks & Stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” simply isn’t true. Society would do well to remember that “Spoken Words” (as well as those hidden behind the anonymity of a keyboard) resonate in one’s sub-conscious for years to come.

    As always, your blogs are empathy-filled and definitely share-worthy. That’s WIN/WIN in my books! Rock on sista-friend…

  4. Hi Lisa. This article ranks within the top 5 of all social media posts I have ever read. However, I don’t have to subject myself to the onslaught of social media silliness, so I usually don’t. In this case I’m very glad I did. It has been printed and will be referenced to my family of a few males and, most importantly, many females. To sum up my feelings, I applaud your courage for following your mind and soul for getting out of radio, although, I always enjoyed your morning show and, because I100% support the continuing advancement women in most every aspect of society. History clearly shows men’s handling of society has left a hodgepodge of “messy” for someone to clean up. There is no better place to start than improving the manners of social media participants and repairing the many levels of divisiveness that exist and continue to develop in our societies today. Society needs to be accepting of women and women need to be confident enough to be accepted by society. Make-up, tailored eyebrows and expensive clothes don’t make the real difference. We need not care about such things. Good grooming, common sense and, most importantly, LOVE is what really matters.

  5. Two things that may seem disconnected at first.

    (1) Many years ago, there was a thing called “good taste.” You refrained from saying or doing certain things in public because you didn’t want your friends, family, neighbours, even strangers, to think poorly of you. It was a positive use of shaming as it helped people avoid embarrassing themselves.

    (2) This week on Remembrance Day, a protestor in Kelowna hijacked the ceremony to honour veterans and active-duty soldiers in order to make a political point. You can guess what their message was, but it ultimately doesn’t matter. The point is they thought this was an appropriate place and time to exercise their free-speech rights.

    No one thinks about good taste anymore. Welcome to the shame-free society.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *