Hank Green’s Addiction to Outrage

Waaaay back in September, when I first started brainstorming Mindful Mondays, I pulled up my daily Youtube subscriptions. I don’t watch a ton of Youtube, but I have a few channels I watch regularly on my lunch break.That day, Hank Green posted this rant:

His points really struck a chord with me, as they echo what I’ve been thinking quite often recently. In the last few years, it seems as if there has been a drastic increase in what he calls “continuous and unrelenting cycles of manufactured outrage [fear].”

Now, Hank does say, and I agree with him, that some outrage is perfectly justified. Please don’t think that I am saying that I do not think anyone has cause to be angry–there are some groups who have plenty of cause to be angry.

However, the media environment we have now creates a problem out of everything. Sometimes I turn on the news and wonder why I am supposed to be so upset about something. Social media makes it even harder. Every day is a new fight. It becomes very hard not to absorb all of the hate that bounces back and forth across my dash, even when it isn’t directed at me.

Why is Hank’s video so stuck in my craw? I suffer from general anxiety disorder. This means that every conflict I see doesn’t just go in one side and out the other. I absorb them like a sponge. How can I help? Have I been doing this wrong? Have I hurt people? Am I prejudice against ___? Can this be fixed by ____? What is this group looking for? What do I need to learn? Why is that anon so angry? It immediately sets off a chain of neurons in my brain so fast that I cannot stop it. And I will agonize over these questions for days. I can’t fix the world–but my anxiety seems to think it can.

The end result is disastrous, because there are just layers and layers of conflicts and social justice issues and–that addiction to outrage–that cycles in the anxiety center of my brain.

I can’t stop the world from being outraged. I can’t stop the media from being dramatic so they can sell commercial spots. And I can’t stop Tumblr from debating their stances.

So I need to find a way to control my own addiction. I liked Hank’s tips, so I’m going to break them down a bit.

Building My Armor

  1. Awareness of my own cognitive bias
    1. I have been working on this a lot, but it is what causes the most anxiety. When confronted with a new issue, and all those questions run through my head, I try to find the answers. I want to learn as much as possible so that I can limit my cognitive biases…but it isn’t always easy to find those answers. I have to accept myself as a flawed individual and know that I am doing my best to be tolerant and understanding, while listening to those people who know the right answers. This fight isn’t about me. I just need to know where to put my feet.
  2. Belief in the fundamental goodness of other people
    1. The world has become a dark place. Every time we turn around, there’s another bombing, another shooting, another ridiculous act of discrimination. People can be mean and horribly selfish creatures. But, again, media only gets paid when their ratings are high–and outrage sells. So I must build my armor with people on the other side of that outrage–like Ahmed and his clock, and his family who fed the reporters pizza, and the German children welcoming Syrian refugees at the border. People like that turn the tide from bad situations to good. Kind people are out there. They just don’t get the front page very often.
  3. Compassion
    1. This one isn’t as hard for me most of the time. I tend to be a pretty empathetic person (although I am far from perfect). I don’t know all the answers. Or really any of the answers. I just want to know how to help. Maybe I am too compassionate, and that’s what gets me in trouble.

My armor still fails me often. I am hoping with these suggestions of Hank’s that I will get better at controlling my addiction to outrage. I’d love to see the world be a more peaceful place, and I will still do my part to help–but I also know that taking care of my mental health is important.

I’d love to hear what you think about this concept of “Addiction to Outrage.” Do you struggle with it? Let me know in the comments below!

UPDATE:  Hank has done a new video on outage, since the world has become, as his brother John puts it “a dumpster fire.”

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