Your Addiction to Outrage is Ruining Your Life
In 2020, outrage is the latest drug of society. It’s more acceptable than alcohol and it’s more addictive than anything you can swallow, smoke or inject, because while heroin or methamphetamine are clearly harmful, anger feels so damn righteous.
After all, that other political party is ruining the world. Their supporters hate America (or whatever country you’re in). People are too selfish. We’re not doing enough for the poor. Women don’t have enough rights. Men don’t have enough rights. Those people are racists. That group doesn’t recognise their privilege. The president is a rapist. Capitalism is exploiting everyone who isn’t the 1%.
Outrage is like a lot of other things that feel good but over time devour us from the inside out. And it’s even more insidious than most vices because we don’t even consciously acknowledge that it’s a pleasure. — Tim Kreider.
We love being angry, because it makes us feel smart. It makes us feel like we care more than the next person (who we assure ourselves doesn’t care enough), because we’re more across the facts than they are. That we have the necessary ideas to fix everything. That we’re the ones that need to be in charge. That when we call someone a Nazi, or a sexist, or a bigot, it’s not our opinion, it’s a fact. That when we call someone out or worse, try to ruin their career, they deserve it.
That’s an astounding level of arrogance.
The biggest problem with outrage, however, is that it has been weaponised. Outrage sells like crazy, because it’s a strong emotion and strong emotions force people into action. That’s why political parties, instead of coming together to find solutions, whip their supporters into a frenzy of anger against the other side. Corporations are now getting in on the action too. They weaponise your outrage to sell their products, such as Gillette with their ill fated ad campaign and Nike using Colin Kaepernick to bring socially conscious consumers to their brand.
Nike sales increased 31% after that ad was released and caused a 6 billion dollar brand increase. You think they put that ad out there to take a social stand? They used your outrage to cash in, and they cashed in big time.
The mainstream media is by far the worst culprit, however, because without your attention they don’t have a business model. They have to make you keep clicking and tuning in, otherwise their advertising dollars dry up. That’s why everything is increasingly sensationalised and it’s no longer about reporting facts. A headline that makes you emotional causes you to click. The article gets you pissed off, which sends you to the comments section to argue with people. The topic trends on social media, which you’re of course taking part in.
Now, rather than get on my high horse and tell you that you’re being played for a fool and you should stop participating, I’m going to take a different approach. If you’re one of those people who is constantly scrolling the news and social media, always getting angry at the latest thing you see or even worse, getting angry on behalf of other people, I’ve got a really important question:
How is it working out for you?
I honestly want to know. Has constantly reading, liking, retweeting and commenting your outrage made your life any better? What’s it actually doing for you? Has it helped you earn more at work? Be better with your family? Made you more fulfilled?
Has it accomplished anything for you whatsoever?
My guess is, it’s just made you even more pissed off and angry. And why shouldn’t it? Spending all your time getting angry about things isn’t going to make you calm and peaceful, it’s just going to result in more anger. If all you ever want to look for is the bad parts of life, how the hell are you ever going to be happy?
One of the best things I did a couple of years ago was to disconnect myself from the news, Twitter, Facebook and to click the “see fewer stories like this” button on Medium for all the articles that are just trying to stir up everyone’s emotions and piss them off. You wouldn’t believe how much more relaxed about life you become. It’s one thing to see something wrong in the world and working to change it, but what’s the point of getting outraged about things you can’t change, or have extremely limited influence over?
Here’s a better idea: use that time and energy to actively better your life and the lives of those around you. We all have a sphere of influence in our lives, where the actions we take and the words we speak actually can change things. Where we can be an example for those closest to us. If we interact and speak with the people in our immediate circle in a way that makes them feel happy, valued and important, that hopefully encourages them to make others feel the same. That’s a powerful force for good.
If you don’t do that and instead decide that you want to keep being outraged by everything, your anger is going to consume you. You’ll find that the only people that want to be around you are fellow activists and outrage addicts. The rest of us don’t want to constantly be talking about what is making you angry right now just because you think it’s the biggest deal in the world. The average person has more than enough going on in their life that they don’t need that added to it.
It’s important to remember that yes, there are more injustices than you can shake a stick at, but neither you nor anyone is going to save the world tomorrow single handedly. Your anger and martyr complex is only hurting you. I guarantee that sort of mentality is bleeding into your outside life and making you miserable. Here’s the thing — the world right now, despite all its problems, nastiness and tragedy, is far better than it was a hundred years ago. The world a hundred years ago was better than it was a hundred years before that.
In other words, the world might not be improving fast enough for you, but it’s improving every day. So here’s a free piece of advice: get off the screen, go outside and spend some time in the sun. Spend some time with friends and talk about things that make you happy. Hell, go and do some things that make you happy. You’ve got to balance things out. It’s a far more satisfying existence than spending all your time staring at a screen, fighting with people and getting worked up over problems that are probably far less urgent than they seem on social media.
The point I want to end on is probably the most important: your anger doesn’t make you right. Just because you are more angry than other people about any particular subject, it doesn’t make your opinion more valid and theirs less so. It doesn’t mean you’re some righteous warrior and they’re a piece of shit because their emotions or opinion aren’t on the same level as yours.
You Don’t Have to Be Part of a Social Movement to Have an Impact
Every day, you have a choice to make