Outrage culture is the phenomenon of reacting emotionally to provocative headlines or soundbites that demand our anger. It is a common tactic used by media outlets and politicians to attract attention, rally supporters and deflect from real issues. But outrage culture has a cost: it drains our mental wellbeing and bandwidth, and prevents us from engaging in constructive discussions.
In this article, I will share my personal journey of disengaging from outrage culture and how you can do the same. I will also suggest some ways to improve the quality of public debates and journalism in our society.
Outrage culture is a trap
I used to fall into the trap of outrage culture. I would retweet or comment on every offensive or controversial content that I came across, thinking that I was doing my duty as a progressive and a citizen. I believed that I had to confront intolerance and extremism head-on, all the time.
But I soon realised that most of the people who engage in outrage culture are not interested in genuine discussions. They are only interested in spreading fear and chaos, and it is a calculated strategy. They benefit from the attention, the clicks, the TV shows, the newspaper columns, and the false sense of importance that outrage culture gives them.
By reacting to them, I was playing into their hands. I was giving them exactly what they wanted, and I was losing my peace of mind and energy in the process.
Disengaging is not passive or complicit
I decided to stop engaging with outrage culture and focus on more constructive and meaningful exchanges. This does not mean that I avoid difficult discussions or dissent, but that I prioritise quality over quantity, and strategy over impulse.
I choose my battles carefully, and I evaluate whether any particular provocation truly merits my response or not. I also consider whether my response will add more light or heat to the conversation, and whether it will align with my values of inclusiveness, compassion, and fact-based decision making.
Some may argue that disengaging from outrage culture is passive or complicit, but it is not. It is an act of self-advocacy and self-care. It is about preserving my mental wellbeing and bandwidth, so that I can show up constructively when it matters.
It is also an act of social responsibility, as it helps to shift the public discourse in a healthier direction. By disengaging from outrage culture, I send a signal that I do not tolerate or reward inflammatory rhetoric or misinformation. I also encourage others to do the same, and to support outlets and platforms that promote factual reporting and nuanced discussions.
How to disengage from outrage culture
Here are some practical tips on how to disengage from outrage culture and improve your mental wellbeing:
- Set boundaries on when and how you participate in public debates. Limit your exposure to social media and news sources that trigger your emotions or stress. Use tools or apps that help you manage your screen time and notifications.
- Surround yourself with art, community and experiences that uplift your spirit and nourish your reflection. Make time for creativity, nature, family and friendship. These activities will recharge you and give you a sense of perspective and purpose.
- Support outlets and platforms that are committed to ethical standards and quality journalism. Avoid or boycott those that rely on outrage or misinformation to attract attention. Be discerning in what headlines and claims you amplify on your own networks.
- Hold media organisations and politicians accountable for their actions and words. Demand transparency and accountability from them, and call out their unethical or harmful practices. Join or support movements or organisations that advocate for media reform and regulation.
- Engage in constructive and respectful discussions with people who have different views or backgrounds from you. Seek to understand their perspectives and experiences, and share your own. Avoid personal attacks or generalisations, and focus on the issues and solutions.
The choice is yours
Outrage culture is a phenomenon that affects us all, whether we realise it or not. It has a negative impact on our mental wellbeing, our social cohesion, and our democratic values. It is a game that we do not have to play, and we can choose to opt out of it.
By disengaging from outrage culture, we can take back control of our attention and energy, and use them for more positive and productive purposes. We can also contribute to a more civil and informed public discourse, and a more healthy and diverse media landscape.
The choice is yours: will you continue to feed the outrage machine, or will you starve it of your attention and brain space? The answer may determine the future of our society.