Are you feeling listless? Disinterested? Apathetic? Are you incapable of forming a concrete, unshakable conviction at the polar extremes of any debate? Then you may be suffering from Outrage Fatigue.
Outrage Fatigue? What’s that?
Outrage Fatigue (known in the medical world as OF – pronounced “Oh Eff”, not… you know… “of”) affects up to 80% of people at any given time, and the evidence suggests it’s on the increase. Its main cause is thought to be “a constant bombardment of images and words via social media streams designed specifically to make you angry about something”, and symptoms include:
- Feeling distinctly unmoved by even the most horrific of news stories
- Treating all authority figures – be they politicians, scientists or academics – with nothing but contempt (usually attaching the words “so-called experts”)
- Lazily appointing a celebrity as the spokesperson for your way of thinking. (See Brand, Russell; Norris, Chuck.)
But how do I know if I have Outrage Fatigue?
To experience OF, you must first experience genuine (or even mild) Outrage, over something you’ve seen via a link that’s “doing the rounds” on Facebook or Twitter. This can include shaky, mobile phone footage of some Chinese bloke stamping on a puppy, unverified reports of homophobic incidents from around the world, graphs showing how climate change will destroy the planet, other graphs showing how it won’t, blog posts about how evil bankers have brought about the apocalypse and histrionic, anecdotal stories about Muslim attitudes to Remembrance Day and/or Christmas.
What are the symptoms of Outrage?
Symptoms of Outrage vary wildly, from tutting and shaking your head and saying, “Typical” before hitting the “share” or “retweet” buttons, to “liking” a page dedicated to resolving the issue raised by said link.
How does Outrage lead to Outrage Fatigue?
The human brain is designed to cope with only so much Outrage at any given time. Scientists believe it may only be possible to feel genuinely angry about three or four things simultaneously, so that the demands placed on it by social media force some issues out, replacing them with others. For instance, until August of 2013 you may have been particularly concerned by the ongoing crisis in Darfur, or the plight of the Falun Gong community in China, but these concerns will have been ousted by your splenetic rage over Miley Cyrus’s “twerking” performance at the VMAs.
Alternatively, your heartfelt anger at the bankers and the banking system that brought about financial collapse in 2008 will, no doubt, have since dissipated, and is dwarfed by your horror at the continuing success of Mrs Brown’s Boys.
But what can I do?
If you, or anyone you know, is suffering from Outrage Fatigue, we advise the following:
- Ignore most links shared on Facebook or Twitter. These are often a gateway to Outrage, which is a major – indeed, the only – cause of Outrage Fatigue.
- When reading an online news story, stop reading at the point when the person responsible for the story, article or opinion piece stopped writing. Do not, under any circumstances, read the comments.
- If an online news story – or even a YouTube video – makes you angry, ask why it makes you angry. Pause to consider all angles on the story, including the inevitable bias of the person presenting the story itself. Form an opinion based on nuance. Alternatively, if you feel you don’t fully understand the context, don’t rush to form an opinion. There is no law stating that you have to have an opinion about everything.
- Reducing the number of subjects you feel you have to care about, and focusing more on those that are important to you, will dramatically reduce the likelihood of you suffering from Outrage Fatigue. From now on, any outrage you experience will be both genuine and rare, and may even prompt you to act on it in the real world.