Addicted to Outrage

Why we need Trump’s tweets

Every morning I pick up my phone and log in to Twitter to see what outrageous things Donald Trump has said overnight. I’m rarely disappointed. And if for some reason he hasn’t offered up something, I can count on @RoguePOTUSstaff or another administration “leaker” to offer up a tidbit to get my blood boiling. Since the election I’ve joined legions of other liberals using Twitter to troll Trump (despite learning recently that Twitter doesn’t have the bandwidth to support us in this practice, and that the bulk of our responses aren’t linked to the President’s original incendiary tweets.)

I don’t do this unconsciously. I make the decision to look at my Twitter feed multiple times a day, searching for content that incenses me. And I know I’m not alone. And so, I asked myself, “What is this addiction to outrage all about?”

There is certainly an element of habit involved. We habitually fill the empty spaces in our days scanning and scrolling our mobile devices. Standing in line at the store. Waiting in our cars at a stop light. Sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. If our phone has an app that will help pass the time, whether it’s Candy Crush, Facebook, Twitter, or Tinder, we’ll use it to do just that.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

But the allure of following @RealDonaldTrump and @POTUS on Twitter goes beyond a simple effort to fend off boredom. I find myself wanting the President to get me mad. I want him and his henchmen to fabricate “alternative facts” and attack the media’s “Fake News.” Like a double shot of espresso in my morning cup of coffee, I find myself needing the rush that Trump’s tweets give me. Why?

First, we need to admit that we get a “high” from being outraged. Like any other addiction, we crave the rush of adrenalin and endorphins that course through our veins when we read something that angers us. And, like any addiction, the more we get, the more we want. We need, both physically and emotionally, to find something, anything to feed our craving.

But there’s more to it than that. What’s at the heart of our addiction to outrage is our need to be right. To be better than. To feel superior to. Our outrage isn’t pure anger, it’s “moral outrage.” Because we “know” that the Trump administration poses a direct and immediate threat to our liberal, democratic values. And that puts us in the position of being the defenders of those values. And that is incredibly self-satisfying. Where else in our lives do we get to don a mask and cape and act as superheroes, out to save the world? As “guardians of the liberal galaxy” we have a moral obligation to vanquish the evil genius that is Trump. And every outrageous tweet is another “bat signal” in the sky, a desperate plea for us to swoop in and save the day. Once we’ve taken on that role (consciously or not), it’s hard to let it go. It makes me wonder how empty Batman felt on the day after he defeated The Joker. What would he do with himself?

The danger, of course, is that we fall into the trap of believing that our trolling Trump on Twitter is actually going to change the course of history. If that’s all we do in opposition to his Executive Orders, appointments and policies, it will be at best a Pyrrhic victory, and likely no victory at all. There’s no shame in being addicted to outrage, as long as we use it to fuel the fire of actual, active, organized opposition.

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