How to Respond in a Culture of Outrage

The world’s becoming more and more connected thanks in part to the growth of technology. The internet, smart phones, social media etc etc has given us an unlimited amount of information that spans the globe. We can know what’s happening nearly anywhere at anytime of history. We are an information saturated culture with no apparent filter of what’s important and what’s not. Videos of cute babies and puppies and people falling on there face go viral. It’s all just out there.

What’s also out there is the commentary of ordinary people’s reaction to these things. Scroll down the comments section of youtube video and see how quickly the comments gets nasty. Scroll down your feed on your facebook and see how long it takes for someone to put an emotional plea for some cause or some anger toward some issue. It doesn’t take long at all.

I’m speaking very generally so this doesn’t take in account the quality of these causes or issues. They may very well be worthy causes. What effect though does this have on the viewer? What effect does having all this commentary have when you view it on a daily basis? What does this mean for our moral commitments when you submit ourselves to a constant barrage of angry texts, tweets, posts, etc. What kind of culture is a culture of outrage and how should we respond?

A social media cause or response is a low bar commitment. It isn’t exactly a sit in when you post a meme about police brutality. Raising awareness is a good idea but does it translate to substantive action? Does this change the lifestyles of those who participate in it? Or is this just another form of entertainment? These questions are posed for the reader to reflect. Does this change the way you live? Does this further the conversation to a point of understanding or does this flow into a direction of meaningless rage? Think about that before you post, like, subscribe or comment on anything.

This is a personal anecdote. When I scroll down my facebook page. I’m not so much angry, but apathetic. I have become numb to the conversations being had in that they’re simply inane in nature or too complicated and out of reach for me to have a positive impact. The urgency in which people talk abut their pet cause, becomes this impossible moral obligation to be involved in all of them. It becomes a learned helplessness. They’re all important so you have to be involved in all of them by implication. This isn’t good. This become a false equivalence. Not all things are of the same moral worth and worth the same kind of reaction. Typing in all caps about breast feeding shaming isn’t nearly the same as man being falsely imprisoned their entire life. That distinction needs to be made in your mind. I want you to be aware that this isn’t the conscious effort of these people. The people posting want something good to happen. It’s just the effect the hyper-reality of the internet has on people is one of perpetual outrage that doesn’t seem to be able to distinguish between someone stubbing their toe or someone having their toes sawed off.

What I suggest to wade through the outrage machine. The constant flow of causes is not to readily respond in kind. Rather take some time to reflect and research and meditate on the subject before commenting. It’s easy to be offended by something and just blast them with ad-hominems. Demean someone call them names and move on. It takes patience to be thoughtful. It takes no courage to post something quickly. Rather if you really want true social change to happen propose tangible steps people can take like: write their congressman, organize a march or rally, volunteer etc etc something that people have to actually do rather than participate in a simulacra.

I know I’m saying this seemingly from my high horse, when in reality I’m a guilty offender as well. That’s the ease though that people can be sucked into outrage machine. It’s cheap and easy. It doesn’t cost you anything. Think of what matters and commit yourself to that. It’s hard and you’ll fail often. As the old saying goes anything worth doing is worth failing at.



2 thoughts on “How to Respond in a Culture of Outrage

  1. Repeated exposure to information will always change you in some way. So the stream of meaningless rage from others IS making us think! Let’s try to be more civil about it though. That’ll be much more productive.

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