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Why Are We Addicted to Internet Outrage?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at C Mich chapter.

Recently another viral video surfaced. This time it was a group of boys from Covington Catholic High School, a group participating in the Indigenous People’s March and a confrontation they had in Washington D.C. The video was originally posted by a fake twitter account that has been deactivated and was only a small section of the full video.

When I first saw it my reaction was, of course, furious. How dare this white MAGA kid disrespect someone much older and more socially disadvantaged than him? This man was just trying to stand up against hundreds of years of oppression in a peaceful protest and this kid, who can’t even vote, was throwing that history in his face.

When I watched the full video on youtube, I noticed that the boys hadn’t been chanting “build that wall” like twitter had led me to believe, they were mocking the chanting and drumming the natives were doing and of course sporting their “Make America Great Again” hats, but their actions had been distorted through repeated shares and retweets. In fact, in the full video, many from the Indigenous People’s March were hailing insults at the boys, undermining the statement that they were trying to diffuse the situation. Later, I found out that the group from the Indigenous People’s March were actually the first to approach the boys and hadn’t been surrounded like I originally thought.

No one is innocent in this video. It is filled with hate and disrespect. We spent so much energy on reacting that we didn’t take the time to understand exactly what happened,so that brings me to the question; Why are we so addicted to outrage?

It seems that every week we have a new subject of fury. Videos, statements, articles, advertisements, etc. and no matter how much we attack, ridicule and boycott; something else adds to the flame.

I am one of these people. I scroll through twitter see the latest issue and I get angry! I go through mentions and like tweets stating what I think is true. I report tweets I find offensive and I follow the people I agree with. But our rage is often biased, both sides have their view of what happened and we all fight with and insult the other perspective. We demonize the ones we disagree with and place the victims on pedestals for their bravery. Nathan Phillips, the Native man in the video is a Vietnam veteran and an important member of his tribe, and while he was being peaceful and was not one of the people yelling insults at the boys, he was certainly not diffusing the tension.

We get angry and defend Phillips against these boys, claiming that we should respect elders. But in discussions of this video a small number of people referred to a different video of an old man peacefully holding a sign in support of Donald Trump, while two people in their 20s danced around him, got in his face and slapped his signs out of his hands. Is this okay because he is on the ‘wrong’ side? Or are we blind to our own biases and hypocrisy? Why is it okay to harass people we disagree with, but when one of our own gets harassed we use it as another example of why that side are the ‘bad guys’.

The MAGA teen in the video, as well as another boy mistaken for him, have received death threats online and at his home after his address was released. Does he deserve to fear for his life because of this video? He and his peers were being incredibly disrespectful, but they were being disrespected right back. I don’t know exactly how the confrontation escalated,but I do know that both sides mishandled the situation.

So why do we care so much about a confrontation most of us didn’t even witness in person? Disagreements at protests happen often and our anger will not change the minds of the other side. Outrage alone will not change the state of equality in America and yet we expend our energy being angry instead of doing the work that needs to be done in order to improve the lives of the oppressed.

We read headlines and retweet without getting the full story, then argue and fight against each other. We read tweets summarizing the issue without fact checking before we jump to agree. There is a problem with getting our news from social media and taking other’s opinions as fact. We live in a time when misinformation is constantly scrolling through our timelines and it is easier to read a few short sentences than go looking for a full length article.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t use social media to bring attention to injustice, it’s a great tool that has been incredibly important for equal rights, but we should be careful about believing everything we see. Tweets can be biased, videos and pictures can be misleading, even articles can spread false information. It’s important to find sources you trust and use multiple to get the full story and perspective. We have to be smart when it comes to outrage, and make sure our anger is justified.


Tess Ware

C Mich '21

Hi, my name is Tess and I’m a double major in Journalism and Women and Gender studies at Central Michigan University. Planning to become a media writer after I graduate. I want to empower people through my writing and hope to someday write a book on the intersection of Feminism and Paganism. I’m a huge crafter, I love knitting and altering clothes I find at thrift stores. I listen to a lot of audiobooks in my free time. I’m really excited to be co-campus correspondent and Editor-in-Chief for HerCampus-CMich and continue to develop my voice, writing and leadership skills.