57: I bet you think this outrage is about you
The big conversation that has been gliding on megahertz as of lately is the state of internet outrage. A beautiful combination of ubiquitous connectivity, free* tools, and portable technology has allowed any citizen to have a printing press and PR firm in their pocket. In a majority of editorials, opinion columns, and hot takes, there’s been a common theme (paraphrased crudely): “all these people are whining too much about a topic, the internet is getting toxic and they need to get over it.”
When technological advances such as blogs and social media flourished over the last decade, it allowed for people that were marginalized in the public conversation with valid opinions to place that opinion in front of a large audience for free*. That instant publishing of thoughts can lead to a couple of stinkers with grammatical typos but having the capability to share and spread an idea with ease is intoxicating.
With that, comes the points where different circles of opinions collide. While someone can pass by a street corner protester with a microphone, interact with them briefly, and the interaction ends ~ internet publishing then takes that interaction with the street corner protester, captures it, and spreads it with a few taps.
Paul Ford wrote a very interesting point about this in a piece, Outrage and the Endless Thanksgiving:
“What this means is that every single day of our lives from now until we die is going to be like Thanksgiving. Maybe Thanksgiving is fun for you, a wonderful time of togetherness. Maybe it’s an excruciating afternoon of physical and emotional torture. In either case, proximity makes emotions more intense. Everyone—family, girlfriends, soon-to-be-ex-husbands, co-workers, childhood friends—are seated around that table, eating that turkey.”
Every time something gets blasted into the internet and your echo chamber, there leads to these points of overlap. That piece that meant to be that “Prius-shaped peace sign” to let your buddies know how Progressive™ and Liberal™ you are will leak to other circles, such as your bigoted aunts and uncles, which then leads to their ham-fisted opinions, and then that good ol’ outrage cycle that everyone likes to critique again starts up.
Yeah, we are going to have opinions and have things we should fight, that’s how our society thrives, but what’s the missing piece? Empathy. Realizing that the person behind an avatar is a living, breathing, fickle human.
A recent episode of the This Week In Blackness podcast, #668, in which they weighed in on Trevor Noah and Patton Oswalt (Google it, as I couldn’t find a piece online that gave a nuanced report), they brought up a point that stuck with me:
“You can critique someone, and still not only like their work, but them as a person.”
A critique of someone while humanzing them is an example of empathy. A drive-by slanderfest is not empathy. It’s the example above of Thanksgiving dinner ~ the table being the entire internet and your close circle that agrees with your viewpoints is in the same proximity as those that say #AllLivesMatter. You may hate their viewpoints and explain to them their problematic ways, but evenutally you’ll have to pass them the plate of cornbread.
Have you ever been attacked online or publicily shamed for an opinion? Let me know and I’ll share it in next week’s letter.
*Free is a fluid definition, as many of these publishing services are ad and/or personal data supported.
What did I find interesting this week?
★ The Chicago Perch : A Chicago-based publishing house, in which they provide free publishing in exchange for community and skill building, is expanding to Los Angeles! Check them out and send them a few bucks.
”What does The Perch dream about?: Paying the facilitators of our free educational programs the fairest wages we’ve ever heard of, connecting people from communities across the country (and world) to share ideas and expand the awareness of how people experience life differently and doubling the activity of our publishing, exhibitions, and public programs with our mission now being demonstrated in two cities.”
★ How The Screenshort Could Save Us From Horrible Headlines: Those little screenshots that give a preview of what it is you are linking to are here to stay.
“But those I’ve talked to are saying it seems to work as, like, a movie trailer for the content and gets people pulled in, and then they want to see the story. That’s a bit unexpected.”
★ What it means to “hold space” for people, plus eight tips on how to do it well: The write-up that inspired this week’s newsletter.
“When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgment and control.”
What do I have coming up?
☞ Yes, it’s finally here. This Friday, April 10 at 6pm, will be the opening of “exceptional/respectable” at The Arts Incubator in Washington Park..
I’m very happy with how this show resulted. It’s my first solo exhibition in three years, all about the 24 hour news cycle and how I’ve been navigating it (basically everything I mentioned in this week’s letter) I can’t wait for you to stop by and if I don’t know you ~ let’s hang out, I’m also throwing a “secret” BYOB after-party. See you Friday.
☞ That podcast that I do with Cher Vincent, Open Ended, just released a new episode, titled “The Human Element”.
We had a lot of fun with this one, exploring the state of death in social media. While the topic was not fun, we did a lot of experimental things such as a shorter format, audio layering, and artistic readings. We are really proud of how this episode turned out.