Addicted to Outrage

Tim Ferriss shared Daniel Ketchell’s Medium piece breaking down our current media environment. It is an excellent exposition of the way a relatively neutral or even positive story is funnelled towards negativity and outrage. It’s really worth checking out.

Here is a quote that stood out for me –

There is probably an evolutionary reason for the virality of outrage, but I’m not a scientist, so I’ll use a simple, light example. Have you ever seen anyone scream at a sports bar or stadium full of strangers about a logical and sound referee decision?

Outrage encourages interaction and engagement, the fuel of our social networks. So outrage, too often, becomes the narrative — or at least skews the narrative.

What if this is true?

We know that human beings are wired for connection. We know that the irony of the internet age is that while we are more connected than ever we are also more isolated than ever.

Our human essence is longing for connection.

Photo by wildpixel/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by wildpixel/iStock / Getty Images

Outrage encourages interaction and engagement. And even more importantly, it allows us to bond with our tribe.

There is A LOT to be outraged about. The planet burns, injustice abounds and the rich are still hoarding. Outrage is the fuel that got Trump elected. It is also the fuel that gives life to the resistance.

But I have seen the way that calls for justice can so easily give birth to righteous mobs that will not be appeased until they see a head has rolled and a person finished. I have seen the cruelty of outrage, its powerful blinding force. I’m not saying there is no place for it. But I am proposing we are addicted to it. It is a lot like caffeine, it gives a strong boost and ends with a hard drop.

I used to think outrage was just turning righteous about being right. But today I’m wondering something else. What if it’s just what we turn to because we long to connect? What if healthier forms of connection feel riskier, too vulnerable, and we haven’t honed those skills. What if what we are trying to do is bond and engage, but we are doing it with empty carbs when what we really need is whole health?