Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Faux Outrage on the Internet is Numbing Our Souls

Tim Challies:
There are times for outrage. There are times to turn away from leaders who have proven themselves unworthy or unfaithful. There are times to expose the charlatan or the unfaithful and to make a fuss and to raise an outcry for the sake of distancing ourselves and protecting others. But it’s not every time. It’s not all the time.

There is a cost to our outrage porn. Ryan Holliday says, “What is real is the toll that fake outrage takes. Psychologists call it the ‘narcotizing dysfunction,’ essentially that thinking and chattering about something eventually gets confused and equated with doing something about it. Of course it doesn’t—but after enough blog posts we delude ourselves into believing we’ve made a difference.” This is similar to what Neil Postman warned us about all those years ago: That the modern news cycle gives us information we can do nothing about, so that while we feel all kinds of emotion, we actually do nothing at all. Airing your grievances is not the same as taking action any more than looking at pornography is making love to your wife.

But there may be a greater cost: when we are outraged about every little matter, we lose our ability to be outraged about the most important matters. When we respond with outrage to every little offense, eventually we become hardened to the things that actually matter. If everything is outrageous, nothing is outrageous.

The fact is, so much Internet-based outrage is manufactured outrage, carefully structured to achieve the end of luring eyeballs to articles. This is the worst kind of outrage because it is designed to attract readers, not to bring about change. It serves us, not the other person and not the church or the Lord of the church. And in that way, the “porn” label fits it very well.
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