This Year in Social Media Outrage

I don’t often recommend an article unless I’ve read it all. But I’m going to make an exception with Slate‘s vast “The Year of Outrage” feature that tracks outbursts of anger on social media throughout every day of 2014, and then offers some acute observations about what it all means. There are essays on conservative outrage, liberal outrage, identity outrage, cultural outrage, and several other perspectives. It’s a lot to take in, so I’m drinking it slowly.

This is especially interesting and painful for a news-cycle blogger like me, because I caught the beginning or middle or end of some of these “outrage” incidents, sometimes mocking them, sometimes agreeing with them, sometimes just noting them in passing. But I didn’t usually look at their alpha- or omega-points very closely, and being wary of “twitter wars” in the social medium I use most, I gave a wide berth to “outrage.”

In any event, you could not ask for a better quick immersion in the heat and smoke associated with the rise and fall of “memes” on social media, and how they interesect with other media. And as Choire Sicha observes in one of the essays, it can all start so innocently:

You are speaking, first, into the echo chamber of your friends. But not everyone is in your silo. And so then some stranger is mad at you; then some friend is noticeably silent. You are blocked or you are yelled at. Spiraling conversations come from realms unexpected and unwanted. You are embarrassed, or you are angrier, defensive or passive-aggressive, or laughing at them all. It is a rush of emotion that stretches long but is only an instant. Then, with a slithery zip, the moment is sealed shut.

This happens again and again. We can ignore it, but cannot pretend it does not matter.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.