Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Emotional feeds

An emotional feed - from Wikipedia

Following up the previous post about targets, one subject I see as a deserving target is what has been called emotional feeding - and I don't mean chocolate. I mean emotional input that entertains and sustains in a vicarious way - without direct involvement.

Most of us probably know what it is to feed off an emotional stimulus. At the very least we've all applauded a rousing performance of one kind or another. But the subject isn't a clearly-defined critical target with popular cues and metaphors. Emotional feeding is itself a metaphor, but a little clumsy, vague and ambiguous - not really fit for critical use.

An analogy of emotional feeding is an internet feed such as RSS, where we subscribe to a website and receive new material automatically. TV soap operas are similar where you can set a series record on the TV recorder so as not to miss a single episode of emotional sustenance. 

In many ways, emotional feeding runs counter to intellectual feeding where we subscribe to sources of new knowledge or new angles to old problems. Yet the two are not linked by some kind of popular metaphorical corollary. We don’t have good metaphors to help us classify social feeds as emotional, intellectual or mixed. Neither do we have good metaphors for their value or lack of value.

TV, cinema and newspapers have always been skewed towards emotional feeds, particularly children's TV. These now traditional media supplied the primary feeds of the 20th century and for all we know could have left us more skewed intellectually than we might imagine. Books tended to offset the imbalance, but only partially as many were emotional feeds in the shape of formulaic romances.

What about education? How much is an emotional rather than intellectual feed? How much is a mixed feed, confusing all those kids forced to subscribe? Do they understand what they have subscribed to, or are we unable to tell them because of our lack of useful metaphors? Does children's TV make the problem worse? 

So emotional feeding may well be an important critical target sitting slightly below the social radar, unlikely to be picked up by TV or newspapers. Familiar enough when described, and not a difficult subject for blogging. But giving it traction as a significant critical target – that’s nigh on impossible because we can’t just invent the cues and metaphors.


Sam Vega said...

Interestingly, a comprehensive critique of all types of "feeding" is provided by Buddhism. The Buddha pointed out that we feed continually and habitually, and urged us to monitor the effects of what we feed on. This is a key metaphor that runs through the teachings. Emotional feed is an interesting one, as it is clear that any type of emotion is OK for one who is hungry in that way. People would rather be outraged, frightened, disgusted, or jealous, than think about what they are doing...

A K Haart said...

SV - monitoring the effects of what we feed on is good advice with interesting ramifications on personal awareness.