I was recently listening to an episode of the Hidden Brain podcast titled “Screaming into the Void”, which dug into why people get so outraged about everything (and then others get outraged about the initial outrage, and on it goes).
You can listen to it here if you’d like; it’s a great episode!
One of the main stories they covered was the mess with Covington Catholic, and the levels of outrage around that. You had the initial outrage against the students until the full video came out, which found that the initial outrage was misplaced… which led to more outrage. If you don’t remember that story, this image may do the trick.
While the story itself involves a lot of nuance, the story about the story is that people were so eager to jump in with their outrage and try to get attention on social media that they didn’t wait long enough to see the truth.
Joe Biden forgot the pledge
I saw a similar story recently where Joe Biden apparently forgot the words to the Pledge of Allegiance. Here is the clip that went around virally:
It looks like he indeed messed up the words until you see it in context. If you watch the full speech (start around the 23:40 mark if you want to jump ahead), you’ll see that the initial outrage was misplaced and his word choice seemed intentional. The early outrage was based on bad info.
Engagement != Change
The podcast does a good job of explaining why outrage is so popular, but also the pitfalls of it. In short, outrage will generally lead to more engagement on social media, but it almost never leads to real change. It can lead to change in some cases, but typically it’s fruitless.
The big problem there is the filter bubble — most of the people that witness your outrage are people that already agree with you. Any dissenting voice is seen as either uneducated or “crazy”, and even further information (like in the examples above) make it difficult for many people to see the other side and change their opinion of the event in question.
In most cases, waiting a little while to collect more information is a wise thing to do. Even things that are “super obvious”, as both of those situations appeared initially, may be wrong.
If time allows, here is that full podcast episode to listen to.
In the meantime take a breath, dig deeper, find the truth, and then (if necessary) direct your outrage in a productive manner.