Now, more than ever, outrage has become big business. In fact, it’s one of the largest growing industries in the world. While you won’t see it in any analyst reports or in the mission statement of any Silicon Valley startup, outrage is the key to massive streams of revenue.
If you don’t believe me, just take your phone out and spend about five minutes on the internet.
Psychologists have conducted studies on how outrage helps ideas gain traction online. In one study, researchers found that if a tweet used a moral-emotional word like evil, destroying, greed, or shame, it increased the amount of retweets by 15-20 percent.
So if you can tap into people’s sense of outrage, you can grow a platform. And a large platform allows you to sell more advertising space on your website, get book deals and speaking engagements, or even land a radio cable news show.
You can build an empire on outrage.
What we often fail to realize is that the reason why outrage is the fastest growing industry in the world is because we are its biggest consumers. We’re the ones doing the clicking, reading, listening, and retweeting. And so if you’re even remotely connected to what’s going on in the world, you just might be walking around with a low grade sense of rage—just waiting to boil over.
As we live in a culture of outrage, we become both victims and perpetrators, cultivating an environment of constant anger that usually doesn’t lead anywhere productive. Nevertheless, Paul gives us this encouragement: “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;” (Philippians 4:5)
In light of that, here are four tips to help you be a reasonable person in the midst of a culture of outrage.
1. Make sure you’re getting angry about the right things.
There are literally a million and one things to be upset about. And the internet would have you believe that they are all equally contributing to the downfall of western civilization. But the fact of the matter is that they aren’t.
My pastor has often told me, “You can’t treat a cold like it’s cancer or cancer like it’s a cold.” In other words, we need the wisdom to discern whether a problem is actually getting involved with or not.
There are certain issues that we should tend to with an incredible sense of seriousness, whether police brutality, anti-Asian hate crimes, taxpayer funded abortion, or the propagation of grave mistruths that lead to violence or unnecessary disunity in our society.
And then there are issues and stories that are decidedly less important. Whether it’s the so-called canceling of Dr. Seuss or a minor infraction of someone not using the politically correct term for something, there are certain news stories that we just shouldn’t get riled up about.There are literally a million and one things to be upset about. And the internet would have you believe that they are all equally contributing to the downfall of western civilization. But the fact of the matter is that they aren’t. Click To Tweet
2. Know when to walk away from a conversation.
I was recently scrolling through Twitter, following an important news story as it unfolded. And if you have ever used Twitter, you likely are aware that the conversations that take place on the platform can’t always be described as respectful or academic. Usually, I have the discipline to just keep scrolling when I see someone saying something foolish.
But on this day, for whatever reason, I took the bait and responded to someone. And they replied back. So I replied to their reply, and so on. The conversation went on for an hour and went absolutely nowhere. It was a waste of time and emotional energy. It helped no one, and left me feeling frustrated.
Regardless of how important a particular conversation is, it might not be worth trying to have with certain people. As Mark Twain said, “Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.”
There are certain people, whether online or in person, who are simply not going to enter a conversation about a contentious issue in good faith. And without common respect and a willingness to listen, the conversation is pointless.
This doesn’t mean that you should never engage in a potentially prickly conversation with someone who disagrees with you. In fact, those are the exact kinds of conversations we should be having. Conversations full of nuance and grace. Conversations that challenge our own assumptions and further mutual understanding.
We just need to know when the person on the other side isn’t willing to have that kind of conversation and walk away when that’s the case.Regardless of how important a conversation is, it might not be worth trying to have it with certain people. Click To Tweet
3. Be meaningfully involved in creating solutions to the problems you see in the world.
At the end of the day, talk is cheap. We can say that we care about racial injustice or poverty, but what are we actually doing about it?
Our rage filled conversation and social media posts give us the illusion that we’ve actually done something. But what have we really accomplished? Most often, we’ve riled up the people who already agree with us, further turned off the people who don’t, and done absolutely nothing to move the ball of progress forward.
If we want to make an impact and affect meaningful change, we need to actually do something. We need to get involved with (or perhaps even create) organizations that are bringing about positive change. We need to donate our time, effort, and financial resources.
When we don’t put our righteous indignation to work, it turns to bitterness and hatred. And that perpetuates a culture of outrage. But when we allow our righteous indignation to fuel our activism, we begin to change the world around us for the better.When we don't put our righteous indignation to work, it turns to bitterness and hatred. But when we allow it to fuel our activism, we begin to change the world for the better. Click To Tweet
4. Be intentional about what you let yourself be emotionally invested in.
Anger has often been referred to as an iceberg emotion. It sits on the surface, concealing what lies beneath. When we watch the news or scroll through social media only to walk away with feelings of outrage, sometimes that anger is only serving as a thin veil for something else.
What we’re really feeling is anxiety. We’re overwhelmed. And sometimes, we feel downright helpless and hopeless.
And that’s because we’re connected to far more problems in the world than we’ll ever have the capacity to be meaningfully involved in. We see everything that’s wrong with the world, and we know that we often can’t do anything about it. So we choose to feel the power of anger rather than the vulnerability of deep sadness and grief.
If you spend much time on the internet, you might begin to feel like you need a personal stake in righting every single injustice, big or small, in the entire known world. But you don’t.
It’s one thing to have an understanding of a problem and be sympathetic to those who are furthering its cause—to celebrate and champion their efforts. But at a certain point, if you’re going to do more than just make noise and feed into outrage culture, you need a dog in the fight. And you only have so many dogs.
So maybe you need to personally detach yourself from certain fights. Maybe you don’t need to have an opinion on everything. At least not a vocal one.Maybe you need to personally detach yourself from certain fights. Maybe you don't need to have an opinion on everything. At least not a vocal one. Click To Tweet
Jesus is even more concerned with justice and redemption than you are.
As you navigate our culture of outrage, be encouraged by the fact that we serve a God who has seen every wrong and injustice that you’ve seen—and far more. And every bit of it matters to him.
And while you are finite, he is infinite. While you are limited, he is eternally powerful. There is nothing wrong in this world that he won’t bring to justice and a place of total restoration. While you and I are called to be involved in redeeming what is broken in this world, it doesn’t ultimately fall to us.
So maybe we can turn down the anxiety. And in turn, we can turn down the outrage and deal with our righteous indignation in a way that’s both healthy and holy.
MORE RESOURCES TO CHECK OUT
If you enjoyed this article, these books might be useful resources to you.
- Christians in the Age of Outrage: How to Bring Our Best When the World Is at Its Worst by Ed Stetzer
- Until Unity by Francis Chan
- Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen