How To Be Outraged On The Internet

The Internet is awesome. With it, you can go up and down the intellectual spectrum, rapidly spreading things you love — from a hipster-ironic version of America’s Funniest Home Videos (“Look! A Youtube video where a guy gets hit in the nuts with a cat playing a keytar!”) to a Wired article on how some dude replaced his head with a high-octane wireless router and now he’s the world’s first human internet server.

Thing is, the Internet is also good at rapidly spreading — and at times magnifying — negative energy, too. Hate, racism, sexism, prejudice, other negativity. And countering those: outrage, which is itself a kind of negativity (though one aimed at positive effect through negative reach).

Outrage is a very real currency on the Internet, as every week gives us a metric fuckbucket of new things to get mad about: “Canada is electrocuting adorable river otters in the streets! In DC Comics’ continuity they just just killed off all the female superheroes in an event called The Gynopocalypse, and they’ve replaced all the female characters with scantily-clad hat racks! Snowden just revealed Project: Polyp, where the NSA has been implanting listening devices in our rectums for the last 30 years! Penny Arcade just said something stupid. Er, again! GUNS HEALTH CARE FAKE GEEK GIRLS CENSORSHIP SOCIALISM AAAAAAAH THANKS OBAMA.”

*skull melts like a chocolate bunny in a microwave*

As of late I’ve felt a little bit of outrage fatigue and, as a result, a kind of outrage-based anxiety — a tiredness of various causes resulting in an unexpected hesitation to dip my feet into the rivers of social media because to do so risks that pinching inside my guttyworks. And this isn’t because I think the outrage is fake or manufactured. Rather, I feel it, too. It’s the real deal. Entirely justified and understandable. Frequently as tangible as a sharp knife turned palmward.

But it’s weary-making.

So, I started noodling on it and when I tend to noodle on something that noodling results in a blogpost of dubious assertions and uncertain ideas. This is the result of said noodling. Here, then, are my thoughts on how to manage and mitigate outrage on the Internet.

Your thoughts are welcome.

Assume That All Outrage Is Authentic

Start from the presupposition that someone’s concerns or complaints are real. Not bullshit. Not faux-genuine. But honestly authentic and coming from a very real place. To assume otherwise requires a very cynical attempt at guesswork where your first step out of the gate is to question everyone’s — even your own — reasons and motives for being upset about something, and it also assumes you know just what the hell is going on inside their heads and their hearts. You don’t know their history. You don’t know what upsets someone or why. If your outrage is real, it’s best to assume everyone else’s is, too.

Just because you don’t like or agree with their outrage is no reason to dismiss it.

Silencing Outrage Is For Assholes

Outrage exists for a reason. We get upset because something has affected us — whether just under the skin or spearing us all the way through our exoskeletons and into our vulnerable hearts. It is completely and utterly shitty to try to take that away from someone: when your only acknowledgment of someone else’s outrage is to suggest that it doesn’t belong, isn’t deserved, and should just get banished from the public conversation, you’re the problem, not the solution. And it’s the same when you have a fire burning in your own belly: there’s nothing more frustrating than having something you believe be dismissed and diminished by another ignorant motherfucker (usually someone who disagrees and hopes that by silencing your outrage they gain a kind of moral upper hand). Do not be silenced. Do not silence others.

Don’t Compare Causes

Prioritize your outrage; don’t prioritize the outrage of others.

You see this a lot. Someone says, “I’m mad about that thing that company did this week,” and someone pipes in with, “YOU’RE WORRIED ABOUT SHELTER DOGS (or SEXIST COMICS or RACIST GENETICALLY-MODIFIED HIGH-FRUCTOSE ORANGUTANS), BUT THERE ARE CHILDREN IN SYRIA BEING KILLED.” Which is entirely true. And entirely sad. But one concern doesn’t steal from another. We feel what we feel and we all contribute our part. That has to be okay. Maybe that person doesn’t know enough about what’s going on in Syria. Or they’re so angry they literally cannot parse it. Maybe they talked about it a week ago and you missed it. Hell, maybe they just don’t care that much. That has to be okay, too. We can’t turn the volume up on every issue the world around: that’s a good way to invite a complete and total mental breakdown.

We all compartmentalize and prioritize.

Do not judge, lest ye yourself be judged. And maybe punched in the genital configuration.

Engage Diplomatically With Outrage (Yours And Everyone Else’s)

When you bring a cause or a concern to the world, folks are gonna wanna talk about it. Maybe they agree. Maybe they want more information. Maybe they don’t agree one little bit. But engagement is on the menu — and presumably that’s okay, since that’s the whole reason to mention it in the first place.

Be nice. Don’t be a dick.

You’re a diplomat representing your own anger — but that doesn’t mean your anger needs to be on display. We feel that way when someone disagrees with us, but what’s the value-add there by responding with anger? Responding with honesty, sure. Even frustration, okay. But anger? Insult? Throwing pain on top of pain, countering negativity with negativity?

If you see nothing to be gained by interacting with someone on a particular topic: just don’t engage or allow them to engage you. Ignorance is fine. If you do see value, then engage with as much politeness as you can muster. Because then a wonderful thing might happen: one or both of you might actually (gasp) learn stuff from each other. How fucking goofy-cool would that be?

Your Two New Best Friends: “Block” And “Unfollow”

If someone persists in being an asshole — or if you just don’t want their signal in your frequency anymore — then embrace the power of unfollow or, in extreme circumstances, block.

Yes, social media is frequently in danger of being an echo chamber where we throw out an opinion and our crowd boomerangs it back to us — that way, we learn nothing, we gain nothing, we do nothing. But you’re also not required to tolerate intolerance. You’re not forced to engage with people with whom you will never see eye to eye on any issue, ever. Our social media circles are bigger, more bloated versions of our friend circles in real life. If you wouldn’t tolerate hanging out with them in person for any period of time, why allow them into the digital version of the same? (Online friends are real friends, by the way.)

When Presented With Challenges, Present Solutions

It’s easy to just… you know, be all RAZZAFRAZZA GNNNNRRR BLARGH RAGEMONKEY FURYCHIMP KICK HOLE IN THE UNIVERSE EEEEYAAAAAARGH, but that’s not entirely productive. It’s honest! It’s understandable! But again: what’s the value proposition, here?

Take your rage. Form it into an arrow. Shoot that right into the eye of your enemy.

Meaning, translate your anger into something actionable. Something productive. It’s very easy to point out problems, but more difficult — and far more valuable — to find solutions. Otherwise, all you’re doing is yelling into an empty bucket hoping it’ll fill up. (Spoiler alert: it won’t.)

Charities! Corporate email bombs! Petitions! Boycotts! Voting booths! Whatever it is you feel might make a difference: do that thing, and try to spread it around.

Embrace Outrage In Areas You Influence

This isn’t to say you can’t be mad about stuff outside your sphere of influence and/or control, but you will find it far more clarifying and productive if you embrace the issues that affect you and your community. Fix the things you can fix. Cleave more closely to those spaces that you control and that matter to you directly.

Try To Be Informed

The Internet makes it easy to spread around love and hate, but even more viral is the syphilitic transmission of misinformation. We sometimes get pissed off based on things that never even happened or aren’t even remotely true — “HOLY SHITQUIDDICH, JUSTIN BIEBER STOMPED A BAG OF BABY BADGERS TO DEATH ON THE TODAY SHOW THIS MORNING.” Mmnope, not true, and really easy to fact-check, except we’re all a bunch of gullible slack-jaws half the time willing to believe any chain mail that comes poop-plopping into our inboxes.

I’ve done it.

You’ve done it.

We need to do less of it.

Pay attention. Do a little research. (Hint: if the article comes from some fringe journal — WHITEPOWERGUNLIBERTYNEWS.COM or BLACKHELICOPTERSORGANICPRODUCE.COM — then dig deeper to see if it’s actually a thing other people are saying or if it’s purely the artifice of some whackaloon “Internet news” outlet.) Try not to spread outrage based on bad info.

Be A Fountain, Not A Drain

Counter your outrage by trying to also put happy stuff into the world. Talk about things you like. Share good news! If it’s a picture of a hedgehog in a jaunty top-hat and a serious-looking monocle, for shit’s sake, I wanna see it. WE ALL WANT TO SEE IT.

That hedgehog will make the world a better place.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the outrage and just be a rage-faucet 24/7. That’s not helpful to you. That’s not helpful to everyone else. Mitigate. Countermand the negativity by introducing a little positivity back into the world. Fight back shadows with flashlights.

You’re Allowed An Outrage Vacation

Repeat after me: “I am allowed an outrage vacation.”

Sometimes you gotta just stop talking about it and engaging with it. Sometimes you have to kick back and ignore all the shitty stuff going on because your own mental health is paramount. Maybe that means just not talking about Today’s Problem. Maybe it means taking a social media vacation — a day, a week, whatever you need. Don’t let it pull you apart at the seams. Protect yourself. No need to get some kind of outrage based Internet-specific PTSD. Because again, as I keep asking throughout this post: what’s the value in that?

74 responses to “How To Be Outraged On The Internet”

  1. Timely. Australia just had an Election and I’ll admit it, I’ve been a little bit outraged at the result, which then turned into a propensity for hyperbole and dramatics, in order to amuse myself back out of the hole. But then there’s people getting outraged that I am responding like this and now I have a headache.

    So thank you for this. I will try to counter my worry and despair with jaunty hats and humour, lest everyone abandon me under a rock.

  2. Not so long ago, I found myself becoming both emotionally and physically drained by just how much there was to be outraged about. I was stressed to the point of severe depression. I eventually realized that, as much as I *want* to be an informed citizen and kickass feminist, I was going to need to take a step back from things that were upsetting me. I felt guilty at first, but I know now that it’s not like I was any use to one of my causes when I was outraged to the point of a mental breakdown.

    A few other things I know now:

    – Sometimes, you just have to take a break from the news, or stop visiting certain news sites completely. I love the work the editors of Jezebel do, but it was impossible for me to visit the site without finding something new to be outraged or scared or sickened by. I’m glad a site like Jezebel – of Feministing, or Shakesville, or Samuel-Warde – exists, but DAMN, I do not need to know about some of that stuff. I can’t help feeling that that makes me a bad feminist…but so would me becoming a total misanthropist. Sometimes, you just gotta cut certain shit out of your life.

    – Never assume malice where ignorance will do. My “area of influence,” as you called it, would probably be sexual assault/harassment awareness and prevention. It’s something very personal to me, as a survivor of sexual assault – and because it’s personal, I sometimes miss the forest for the trees. One of the prevailing constants in ANY internet discussion about rape and sexual assault is that there will always be *someone* who claims that most rape allegations are false. I used to meet these claims with “Will you get a load of this asshole?” (and honestly, sometimes that still *is* the best approach), but I started to realize that a lot of the hyperbolic “facts” and false assumptions that got thrown around were based on ignorance of the law, ignorance of how criminal investigations work, and ignorance of crime statistics. These people didn’t know that, statistically, only two to eight percent of *reported* (and remember, less than half of all rapes are reported) rapes are false, and that the number of false allegations (in which the rapist is actually named) is a mere fraction of that; they didn’t know that less than one-fifth of reported rapes ever go to trial, and that only six percent of reported rapes (less than three-percent of rapes overall) result in the rapist serving any prison time. And they didn’t know that so many of their own, proposed solutions to false allegations – timely testing of DNA samples, more thorough investigations by police, more specially trained investigators – were things that victims-advocates and feminists wanted, too. I’ve had good conversations about state backlogs of DNA tests and the lack of police resources for training officers on how to handle sex crime allegations with guys I’d have previously dismissed as rape apologist jerkfaces.*

    – That whole “grant me to serenity to accept the things I can’t change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference?” TOTALLY TRUE. Me getting outraged about something I can’t do anything about is pointless. I need to focus on things I can change, either by volunteering or petitioning or donating or protesting. I can’t do anything about that asshole on YouTube who posts videos of him shooting feral cats, other than flagging the videos. I *can* volunteer with a local humane society and help them with their TNR efforts, as well as donate to feral rescues I know do good work.

    – Channel that outrage back into your art. I got to the point where I spent so much time being outraged, I didn’t have anything – time, emotional energy, attention – left for my writing. How fucking pointless is that? Now I make myself stick by a rule – if I find myself bothered by something for more than half an hour, then I make myself write.

    – When all else fails, I imagine a future in which I am a very wealthy and insanely influential author who can right societal wrongs as I see fit. Yeah, it’s an impossible dream – but it makes me feel better, dammit.

    *Except for the rape apologist jerkface on Facebook today who told me that “cockteases and gold diggers are their own rapists” because they can’t get a guy all hot and bothered “and then expect to skip out on the bill.” That dude can go fuck himself. (I mean, it’s not like anyone else is going to.)

    • “I love the work the editors of Jezebel do, but it was impossible for me to visit the site without finding something new to be outraged or scared or sickened by. I’m glad a site like Jezebel – of Feministing, or Shakesville, or Samuel-Warde – exists, but DAMN, I do not need to know about some of that stuff. I can’t help feeling that that makes me a bad feminist…but so would me becoming a total misanthropist. Sometimes, you just gotta cut certain shit out of your life.”

      This is me. Had to stop visiting daily because I was going home fuming about situations I had no control over.

      • I think Jezebel is a great example of outrage fatigue. In general — I really enjoy the work they do, and think the editors do a great job shining the light on a lot of issues that don’t get covered elsewhere.

        But man, after a while it gets to be TOO MUCH OUTRAGE for me. I find myself reading an article and thinking, “Wait, should I be upset about this? What exactly am I supposed to be upset about? Is this worse than the other thing I just read? WHERE SHALL I PLACE MY RAGE??”

        At which point I know it’s time to go watch kitten videos for a while.

  3. I don’t know whether or not the internet has caused there to be more jerks with extreme (even scary) views, but it certainly makes one aware of more jerks, and it certainly makes some jerks a lot more bold, and they really do seem to control some online venues.

    My husband and I disagree about whether or not most of the internet haters always believe the extreme racist, sexist, homophobic poo that they fling. He thinks they don’t really in many cases, and are just doing it for attention or to look cool. I think they do, even if they’re overstating their cases, because I can’t fathom why anyone would want to be considered a racist, sexist, homophobic douchebag if they’re not really that way. There are plenty of other ways to get attention on the internet. And I’ve met too many people who are like that in real life, though they are usually a bit more polite in person (at least until they get a few of drinks in them).

    Regardless, it’s exhausting and upsetting, and it’s really, really hard to avoid if you spend time in webville. Thanks for posting this. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who feels like I’m being punched in the gut by all the venom sometimes. Good advice, but oh so hard to take sometimes.

  4. Great post, Chuck.

    I think nowadays people spend WAY too much time rehearsing outrage. We – as a race – have got high-howling-piss-off down to a fine art. It’s become a knee-jerk reflex – see something – get pissed off. We are all driving way too fast. Society has raised road-rage to a near religious status.

    We all need to take a giant cosmic chill pill.

    We need to learn to slow down and giggle a little bit. Work on them smiles, folks – life is way too damn short to be so damn pissed off about everything.

    Now – if only Forrest Whittaker would materialize in my goddamn kitchen and brew me a goddamn cup of coffee and fry me up a goddamn plate full of bacon and goddamn eggs! Goddamn it, scientists – we’ve GOT the freaking James Kirk communicator figured-out enough already – when are you going to get working on a goddamn freaking breakfast replicator!!!

    Now that’s something worth outraging about…

  5. Haven’t read past the first couple paragraphs because I gotta know: was the guy playing the keytar or was it the cat? My need to know is killing me.

  6. As someone who is frequently outraged, I do think outrage can be addictive, and unhealthily so. I think after a while you can start looking for outrage and becoming outraged over relatively trivial things.

    So, yeah, an outrage vacation does help put things in perspective.

  7. Great post! Here’s my 2p….

    First seek to understand, then seek to be understood.

    Yes, I’m quoting Covey, like the cubicle-dwelling business-speaky office monkey that I am. But I think it’s a good philosophy in life, and one that’s sorely lacking on the internet.

    How often do we see conversations like:
    Person A: This thing is an outrage!
    Person B: No, this other thing is an outrage!
    Person A: How dare you, now I am outraged at you!
    Person B: Right back atcha! Bring me my mace of outrage! Grrrr!
    Person A: *equips broadsword of insult* Rawr!
    *outrage-battle ensues*

    Imagine the difference if it went like this….
    Person A: This thing is an outrage!
    Person B: I don’t know much about that, tell me more. What is it exactly that you are outraged at?
    Person A: This thing, and that thing, and another thing over here!
    Person B: That’s interesting, I hadn’t thought of those. I can see how upsetting that would be. Have you considering this thing I found under my fridge?
    Person A: I hadn’t thought of that. And there’s also this thing behind my sofa which might be pertinent to…hang on, are we having a reasonable conversation here?
    Person B: You know what? I think we are. Please continue.
    Person A: I shall. Oh, look at that. I’m doing sentences without exclamation marks. This feels unusual, but I like it. Anyway, back to the topic…
    *mutual understanding and conversation ensues*

  8. Good reminder, in all points.
    Online activities in the few days after the attempted murder suicide in the Stapleton family that basically exploded the autism “community” (which was already in fragments or an illusion) have outraged then exhausted me .. (plus Australian elections..uh) .. I shall be on outrage vacation now (the girl is recovering thank gawd!)

  9. Ok, I read the whole thing now. Thank you for saying this, especially about “block” and “unfollow” and the part about taking a vacation. I’ve had to do it a lot lately, and I figured out why about a month ago. I’d started following some popular twitterers several months ago who run in similar circles to me, and all they did was rage and rage and rage. I finally figured it out, and unfollowed, then I took a break from Twitter.
    It actually amazed me that I couldn’t figure that out sooner, I think it’s something outrage does to you. It tells you you’re not allowed to disengage, lest you miss some controversy. Well, I found out after doing this that you do not have to go looking for controversy, because sometimes it will come and sit in your lap when you don’t want it.
    I wanted to add one thing that’s helped me, which is not just to be a fountain, but to seek out fountains. Like comedies on Netflix, or playing with a litter of golden retriever puppies, or taking silly pictures of your kids, or go to a Japanese steakhouse, those are always fun.
    I love trying to be a fountain. The other day I wrote this: about my daughter’s hearing loss and her boldness to don bright purple hearing aids.

  10. I have a personal rule – don’t waste time on problems you can’t solve. I care about children dying in Syria. I really do. It breaks my heart. So do a thousand other tragedies. But what ties them all together is this: they are things I can’t actually change. All that Internet outrage doesn’t actually stop the President of Syria from killing his own people, nor does it have a whole lot of effect on our own leaders. Rehashing the politics and the historical chaos and figuring out why that region is in a constant state of turmoil might be fun for some people, but for me, it’s paralyzing because I can’t do anything about it. So I leave Syria to those who can deal with it more objectively than I can. Instead, I focus on the problems I can actually solve. They are small things. I accept that. I’m not going to change the world or cure cancer or solve Middle East Peace. But there are plenty of problems to go around. I’ll deal with the ones here at home.

  11. I love the line about forming your rage into an arrow and shooting it into your enemy’s eye. I tend to avoid politics on the internet. A lot of internet outrage seems to involve one party shouting their opinion a little bit louder in answer to each question they are asked until they resort to personal insults. So yeh, I sign the odd petition but like Tricia there, unless the outrage energy is positive there’s no point.

    Great post.



  12. After reading “How to be outraged on the internet” I have the most profound urge to hug and kiss the stuffins out of you…unfortunately, I’m’re there…and I’m older than dirt. But that doesn’t change the fact that I love you for having the smarts to write it. I think I’ll post it to facebook everytime someone I know goes on an unnessary and totally whackadoodle tirade.

  13. Alternatively:

    Rule No. 1: Assume money/greed to be prime motivation. Excellent chance that you will be correct. Move on, nothing worth engaging.

    Rule No. 2: In the minority case where Rule No. 1 does not apply, immediately assume ignorance rather than intent. This will account for the remaining fraction. Move on, nothing worth engaging.

  14. I take social media breaks on occasion. It started with a 101-day total social media blackout. It was interesting to see the reactions I got: “I’d DIE if I had to be away from Facebook for even a few days!” I had some people take great offense to the break, as though it was a slap in their faces. When I met up with people in real life, it hit me how many conversations are based on what happens online. “Oh, I guess you wouldn’t know what we’re talking about since it was on Facebook…”

    These days, I just take long weekends from Facebook, but allow myself to go to the social networks that don’t wear me out. If I leave for a week, what I find is sometimes, no one even notices. While people usually reply to things I post about on Facebook, when I step away and don’t announce it, they simply move to other people. If the break is longer, I’ll get messages asking what’s up, but I can step away for a week and even family stays busy with other things.

  15. “So, I started noodling on it and when I tend to noodle on something that noodling results in a blogpost of dubious assertions and uncertain ideas.”

    Oh thank Cthulhu. That’s how I blog and I thought I was doing it wrong!

  16. Wow I was just thinking about this last night. All the Philadelphia Eagles fans are OUTRAGED that the Washington Redskins team name is racist, but it’s been that way for 35 years.

  17. One: I read this and LOVED it. Enthusiastically shared it with FB. twitter and tumblr. An hour later, I had some other thoughts that you might want to consider. Here is what I wrote on tumblr:

    “Was crawling into my bad for a sweet mid-morning nap when I realized something that made me re-think my full-throated endorsement of this essay. It occurred to me that Chuck Wendig is almost certainly a white male. How did I know this? I realized that the essay is predominantly written from the point of view of someone that has no stake in the matter, no “skin in the game.” Which, by and large on many issues, is true for white men in our culture. Whatever issue they choose to be passionate about is just that — a matter of choice. Not a matter of their personal survival. A woman speaking about her safety as a woman, a transgender person speaking about their rights and safety, a black person speaking about their concerns — these are all experienced as immediate threats to their individual and collective well-being and even existence. The outrage expressed by people who are advocating for their own safety and well-being can not be parsed as easily as the examples in Wendig’s essay.

    As a white, jewish woman who cares very much about social justice issues and tends to the cerebral and philosophical, I found Wendig’s essay personally helpful in reminding me to calibrate my emotions in social media. The easy access to information on-line does make it seductive to overindulge in a kind of exuberant ego-sating outrage. [Look what a good person I am! I CARE SO MUCH!] Wendig’s essay names some particular pitfalls in on-line social activism and offers some good advice. But I think it’s important to realize that not everyone’s outrage submits to these observations and suggestions. Some people are refusing to go gentle into their personal and collective dark nights, and those of us who have comfy seats in life boats should shut up and listen.”

    • Actually, to pile it on, I’m a white, middle-class, heteronormative male.

      I don’t think it’s entirely fair to say I have no “skin in the game,” as it were — my stakes are not as personal as some, but they’re real and keenly felt. Plus, I have issues that have affected me, too — outrage is not restricted to various prejudices. I’ve experienced bullying. My father died of cancer and his death is related to problems with the health care industry and the costs therein. I’m a writer and an artist and a blogger and so I have lots of personal stake in internet freedom and personal privacy and the right to be able to create my art and get paid while doing so. I’m part of the SFF community and so what happens there matters to me.

      Nobody wants to be dismissed, and I certainly don’t want to be, either. My struggle in a lot of ways isn’t as hard as some folks, and I’m not claiming it is or ever will be — but I do have things I care about and I still want a better world for everyone around me. Not just white dudes.

      You’re right that it’s not as easy as just disconnecting, though I don’t think the post suggests to to that. And I think no matter how personal your stakes I think it’s still maybe a good idea to take care to heed some of this post — or, at the very least, protect your own mental health in the process.

      Glad you liked the post.

      — c.

    • Actually, as a black woman, I endorse this post wholeheartedly just BECAUSE my regular life provides me with quite enough outrage. Rehashing it on the Internet has not been overwhelmingly helpful. (Often, but not always, and not overwhelmingly.) I learn all kinds of new slights and phrases and stereotypes online that I did not need to know to live my life. Stress is sometimes directly related to lowered life expectancy, and there are times when my Internet life has made me genuinely afraid of this. So the “off” switch is my buddy! *loves on the ‘off’ switch*

      • (I also find the “off” switch often helps me avoid the whole dilemma of being “required” to be offended by things I am not actually offended by. That whole individuality thing. I could never remain offline long-term, though.)

  18. I’ve been having a big problem with rage fatigue for a while now. I effectively shut down my L.A. Noir crime blog back in July because of it.

    Interesting thing was that I got one comment on it to suggest ways to deal with it. I get what the person was getting at and it’s sound advice. Get a new perspective, etc.

    But there was one thing in it I thought was particularly interesting.

    “Outrage is a particularly American affliction.”

    I’m not sure that’s true. Are we just more outraged about things than other people? I have a hard time believing that, but I also have no way to really tell.

    Thoughts from non-Americans? Thoughts from other Americans who’ve been abroad? Anybody?

    • Given how often I see outrage from Australia or the UK or [insert country here], I can’t imagine that’s true. It MAY be an affliction more likely among those who are mildly affluent (compared to the global standard, at least) and in this case certainly among those who have Internet access.

      • Yeah, I don’t buy it either, but at the same time, we’re all in our own little filter bubbles of Internet access and culture and viewpoint. I mean, do Norwegians get as pissed off as I do? I have no idea. And I have no way to tell because I don’t speak Norwegian. It doesn’t really matter, I suppose. I’m sure everybody’s just as pissed off as everybody else.

          • Outrage is a human condition; it is not limited by country. The internet is only one medium for outrage; and a relatively recent one. Access to the internet medium may make internet outrage seem more prevalent around those that are “mildly affluent”.

            Speaking of Norway – do you remember the 2011 massacre where Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people? Breivik was outraged over Islam and immigration. Before the attack, he had participated for years in internet forums where he was outspoken about his outrage.

            As the essay states, engaging diplomatically and presenting actionable solutions is key. It is unfortunate that violence is often the action taken.

        • I have a Norwegian buddy who right now is very outraged at the results of an election which happened, I believe, yesterday, so, yeah. (She was outraged bilingually, so that helped me.)

      • Be mindful that the United States population is several times larger than that of the UK and Australia combined (as per your examples, but it’s true of many other countries that seem to have “less” outrage). While we may hear “less” outrage from those countries, we need to be mindful that it’s really the proportion of outrage to population that actually indicates who REALLY has the “affliction”.

        The Falkland Islands has a population of nearly 3,000 people. If we imagined for a second that every last person on the Falkland Islands had severe rage issues and all of them vented their rage into the internet (instead of going HULK SMASH on their personal possessions, countrymen, and seagulls) you would hardly notice it, like a drop of water in the Atlantic Ocean.

        Americans might actually be pretty mellow compared to other people around the world, but you wouldn’t know it because there’s so many of them turning green with rage on the internet that you’d think they’re all like that.

        And frankly, if you see the kind of arguments had in the political arena in the UK and compared it to what happens in the political arena in the US, well…you’d probably be inclined to think Americans are more mellow unless Hulk Hogan actually commits and runs for POTUS in the next elections.

  19. Great essay, and I agree that the biggest component missing from the outrage cycle is action. Throwing more vitriol into the swirling maelstrom of hate on the internet is emotionally draining and convinces no one, but doing real actions in the real world (volunteering for or giving to a charity, organizing a protest, doing outreach and education) is good for the soul. Plus it might actually do something. At the very least it will get you outside and away from the computer for a bit.

  20. I am very disappointed there was only one mention of Syria. Doesn’t anyone care? Are you do busy twerking or seeing how low you can wear your pants to take time out of your busy schedule worshiping the Kardashians to care about shelter marmosets who are suffering in Syria?

    But, seriously. Bravo!

    People care a lot, about a lot of things, but we only have the energy to do one thing at a time. Being outraged is only a synaptic firing in response to adverse stimuli, but it’s not a solution nor a path to a solution. If someone cares about terrible events, they do something about it. That may be a few hours a month volunteering or sending money, but it requires a motor action response.

    Don’t show me your rage, show me your action. If you’re upset by Syria, which means your moral compass points true, then send a few bucks to these good folk:

    And shelter marmosets! Will someone help?

  21. I’ve been having a problem with outrage recently. So many things to be outraged about. As a female Jewish survivor of rape and abuse I need to remain educated and involved but I can chose how involved and where my time and efforts are best spent. But it’s been affecting my mental, emotional, and physical health (I have chronic health problems).

    Some great advice. Thanks Chuck.

  22. THANK. YOU. This is such wonderfully sane and considered advice. I found I was getting so dreadfully riled, all the time, by what I was reading and it was piling onto other stresses and putting me in a state where I was less able to cope with the stuff right here in my own actual life that I need to cope with. Now I limit my consumption of the things that will get me all helplessly ragey. There are certain things I don’t follow up, certain comments threads I don’t read. I will do what I can, whether it’s sign a petition or make a public statement (on a blog about 3 people in the known universe actually read, but, you know) or otherwise indicate my support where needed, but I no longer read every last thing posted by eejits and trolls, because, frankly, who needs it? (I admire the thought of calmly engaging with apparent trolls and ignorami in order to try and get through and reach a mutually helpful conclusion – but some subjects are just too close to the bone for me to attempt that).

  23. E-mail is my only social network. I only read about 1/5 of what comes in. Obviously TM is a must. I relate to the lady above who claims to be older than dirt as I just rolled over into the 4th quarter in July, so am older than the rocks that dirt is made from. Which. I have resigned from outrage. It was eating my life. I write a check and send it off now and then. I will sign the odd petition. I am concerned about Syria and feminism and the population explosion and Wall Street and the 1% vs. the 99% (of which I am such a member!) and my most recently discovered horror, hydrofluoric acid being used to extract shale oil, but I can’t live the last quarter of my life (assuming 100 years total) in a state of constant outrage. Mostly, I read books—some of everything. My husband does Facebook and there are many people there from all parts of my previous lives but I just pass. I can’t deal with anything on a continuing basis but writing, cooking (no fridge-chihuahuas though—I’m vegan) and thinking with a little knitting and sewing thrown in. Amazing how well I feel. Thanks, Chuck, for everything. I envy you your energy and verve and “terrible” mind! ;D Love you most dearly. Live long and prosper.

  24. Negative opinions, expressed with calm or spitting fury, has always been a part of our humanism. In the past, geographic, social separation, and primitive communication kept it to manageable levels. The global pervasiveness of today’s media has inundated our senses, the bad having a tendency to make us wonder WTF (that ole human trait where we tend to dwell on the bad shit). Everybody has a megaphone now. It’s hard to hide.

    Good advice, Chuck. We have the choice to ignore, unfriend, unfollow. And if one feels it’s important to address the trolls and negative rhetoric, do so with class, and just the facts ma’am.

  25. This is my greatest terror in life right now: to become the object of outrage. I feel like when my book comes out, if everyone just ignores it and I go on about my life, hey, no big whoop, status quo continues. But what if someone takes offense and then echo chamber and then ZOMG I’m this weeks Paula Deen/Nickelback/Miley Cyrus? That stuff is scary. People really genuinely HATE the exemplars of causes they’re outraged over. People they’ve never met. How crazy is this internet thing, anyway?

    Anyway, another really piercing post, Chuck. Thanks.

  26. Brilliant. (Not that any post by you which also references Wheaton’s Rule could be anything BUT…)

    Also? That whole “be a fountain” thing? THANK YOU. This is one reason I spend so much time sharing pictures of fish and random aquarium things. The stranger, the more benign, the better. Outrage fatigue is a downer.

  27. Saturday night I was at my in-laws house and I (somewhat) jokingly said “Let’s not talk about anything irritating.” That struck several things from the conversation right off the bat (sports, school….), and then we all stared at each other. Someone started talking about a topic and pretty soon it devolved into a conversation about how irritated we were about that topic. We kind of laughed about it, and tried again, but we couldn’t help it, and it really wasn’t very funny that we couldn’t talk about anything without getting mad about it.

    I’m finding it very irritating to be irritated all the time, and appreciate the timeliness of your post.

  28. I suppose that I had outrage burnout not terribly long ago. I decided I didn’t like the anxiety and constant bickering and posturing that *almost* never went anywhere.

    So I just… avoid it now. I guess that’s a thing that happens. I still have opinions, but I don’t engage, not unless directly asked for my opinion. I’m starting to care less what other people think and more about my family and making sure that we’re doing right. Maybe this is something that happens as you near your 30’s, some step into adulthood? Maybe it’s something that’s supposed to happen later but the internet has bounced so much off the walls in such a short amount of time that it’s accelerated the wear of my fleshy hide.

    Maybe this is what an older person would feel like if they didn’t grow senile first.

  29. What I love about Janetter (an app for teh twitters) is that you can mute people. Just turn them off for 30 minutes, an hour, a day, a week, whatever… and you just don’t get their stuff for that amount of time, and then they come back. So if someone goes off on a ranty rant you just can’t handle, or they become a sudden hose of information about Australian weasel farts or something you just don’t care about and don’t need to see, you just mute them and *bink!* you are free of their influence for a short (or long!) amount of time.

  30. While much of what you say is a nice reminder, on some of it, I’m coming in from a slightly different angle. Namely:

    Don’t silence others’ outrage: Practically nobody on the Internet has the power to silence another’s outrage on the Internet. That’s why the Internet is so very loud. 🙂 The few who do aren’t having Internet conversations in the first place. The “you are censoring me” argument is leveled a lot at women and other repressed groups, to argue that their disagreement or challenges are attempts to “silence” the person who is not “politically correct,” destroy their livelihood, etc. It’s a sop to try to derail a conversation. And on young and inexperienced folk, or in a large conversation, it can work. Women get told that they are silencing others a lot, so having a guy, however well intentioned, tell me not to silence another’s outrage? First off I can’t so there’s no point admonishing me about it; second off, saying it to me is part of not silencing me but trying to attack me from a different direction to discredit what I say. If you don’t want to talk to me, you can walk off (which is part of what your piece is about.) I don’t have to worry about silencing you, and it’s another demand that women be docile, deferential and submissive in conversation. Understand, I know you did not mean it that way, but that’s the frame of reference thing; don’t silence others’ outrage can mean different things to different folk. It can mean a much different thing to someone who is not a white straight male, etc.

    Engage diplomatically with outrage: Again, for women and repressed groups, this is being told that we should be deferential, submissive, and docile — be nice. Women are always being told to be nice and to watch our tone, because women are expected to be that way. If repressed groups are nice, the claim is, then the nice people in the privileged groups will help us. But if we are not sufficiently nice by their judgement? Then screw the whole group. Historically and currently, being nice and diplomatic hasn’t gotten us much. Wendy Davis was not being diplomatic when she filibustered the Texas legislature against an unconstitutional law. Women did not get the right to vote by being diplomatic. And in conversation, people who are repressed and feel threatened and get death and rape threats know that they will often be talked over if they are solicitous and no matter how diplomatic they might be, they will still be told they are not — that they are hysterical, over sensitive, overly angry, neurotic, etc. So again, nice sentiment, but on the Internet and in the real world, women and repressed groups don’t really need to be lectured to on diplomacy, since their survival often depends on it and their freedom often depends on them risking being very undiplomatic. It’s kind of easy for guys to tell each other not to be a dick, but the rest of us get called dicks just for opening our mouths. So again, fully understanding that you didn’t mean it that way, my reaction to being told that I should be diplomatic? The person telling me that doesn’t necessarily understand the actual problems.

    Present Solutions: Again, sounds good on the surface. But repressed groups are always informed that they have to come up with the solutions and fix everything and that the existence of the problem is really their fault, the solution their responsibility even if the problem is other people’s behavior or institutional prejudice. If they do present solutions, those solutions are either discounted or there is outrage that they dared to present solutions. Making people aware of the problem, trying to get them to face the problem, is hard enough to do, and tiring as it is. The constant insistence that if we have a problem in society that we should fix it and guide the people who are causing the problem or benefiting from it or not going through it, is just another demand of repression that excuses the people who benefit from the problem from facing it or dealing with it. So again, trying to be helpful I know, but it’s basically lecturing from on high while we get pistol whipped from others on high.

    Be a fountain: No, you go be a fountain. 🙂 Again, this is basically the being diplomatic and nice theme. Women and repressed groups get told that they should be more positive, more appreciative of positive changes in society or others trying slightly less to repress them, etc. It’s part of the repression. Why are you still so unhappy? Aren’t things better? Do we have to keep talking about this? This negativity is dragging me down and probably bad for your health. Never mind that you can’t actually escape the negativity because you’re stuck living in it, keep your pain and sorrow over there and give me a smile and a tap dance. So again, good intentions; liable to get a fuck you response in many quarters.

    Take an outrage vacation: Yeah, well no, because I can’t. While I can shut off the Net and go read a book for a break, avoid the t.v., newspapers, talking to people, go live in an isolated cabin in the woods, the problems that I am outraged about still effect my life every day. That doesn’t mean I spend every waking moment thinking about them. It does mean that I can’t really take a vacation from how laws are effecting the lives of myself, my sister, my daughter, people I know, from doing a quick minor check that any male I pass isn’t going to attack me or threaten me, from prejudice that can effect my livelihood and future regularly. People in repressed groups can’t escape from the repression and take a vacation from it. If you are not equal in the society, you stay unequal even if you never use the Internet. You are unequal in a store, you are unequal on the beach, you are unequal in your own home. You can’t not think about it because other people won’t let you. You can back away from things on the Internet, which is basically what you are saying, and sometimes people do get caught up and need that reminder. But that’s not really a vacation from the outrage. It’s just a pause in the discussion. We don’t get no stinking vacation. We cannot say take this job and shove it. So it’s kind of like when you have a newborn who has croup and people look at your crazed, sleepless stare and tell you that you should take naps and you laugh maniacally at them? That’s my reaction to being told that I can take an outrage vacation.

    I hate to put in any of these criticisms, because the piece is a lovely sentiment to the situation and certainly we’d rather go towards peace, meditation and universal love than away from it, but you did ask for thoughts. And as I read your list, those are what came up. That being said, I am trying to do less, more targeted, more productive interactions with the Internet, so I’m not hostile to the gist of what you are saying. We don’t really need this electronic network taking over our lives and raising our blood pressure. And you recognize that outrage is also a tool. But the frame of reference can be a little different, depending on who you are.

    Was that diplomatic enough? Probably not. 🙂

  31. My GF, she say to me, “Y U watch news so much, makes you angry?”
    I say, “That’s why I watch it.”
    But I did dial it back a lot–trust me, you don’t want to be my friend on FB.
    I’m trying very hard not to be that guy, because I’m already that guy in so many other things…

  32. Materialising out of the aether to say I really appreciated this piece. I’m currently in recovery from the Australian election cycle, and I realised the whole mess of getting agitated about the campaign wasn’t doing me any favours, mentally or physically. So I’ve decided to take a political news break – I’m ignoring political items on my news feeds, and choosing not to engage with subjects which raise my blood pressure.

    I’m also doing my regular contributions to what I call the “troll fund” – basically, if I read a comment on a blog which makes me annoyed, I put 5c into a jar, and the money will eventually go toward charitable donations at the end of the year (got the core idea from John Scalzi, but modified it to deal with my somewhat less than affluent circumstances). Once I’ve put the 5c into the jar, I can skip to the next comment. I also put 5c into the jar for any comment or commenter who has been visibly moderated out of existence (on the grounds that these would have made me tetchy too).

    I’m up to $38 so far this year, and I started back in February. Those 5c pieces add up over time.

    The other thing I’m doing for myself is noting in a notebook “What Went Right”. The aim is to begin spotting patterns of good things in my life, to counterbalance the bad things I see so easily after a lifetime of constant pessimism. It’d be nice if there were a “good news” website somewhere out there on the web – just somewhere where people could submit all their reports of what’s going right, and what’s good about the world. I realise a lot of it would default to what could best be described as “highly local news”, but hey, if we can begin to encourage the habit of just seeing the good stuff, it’d be a good thing.

  33. I disagree with the majority of the opinions expressed in this article. Outrage is usually synonymous with an emotion based opinion rather than a logic based one. I find outrage is generally an obstacle to sizing up a situation or idea properly, and accounting for its pros, cons, and realistic causes/effects. Just my 2 cents.

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