This post by Dr. Kelly Flanagan on his excellent blog Untangled got me thinking. He does a fantastic job describing where our online outrage comes from, and goes on to describe how we might be able to get over it and start having productive conversations.
It’s a topic that’s been on my mind recently. Online outrage–the temptation, even the pressure, to react with rage when someone does or says something you disagree with–is a huge barrier to constructive communication today. Which is odd, because each one of us has at our fingertips the most sophisticated communication tool ever developed. We really ought to learn how to use it better.
Of course, communication has never been a particular strong suit for most of us. We’re great at talking, great at putting our message out there for others to receive. It’s the receiving where we fall short, the listening. The allowing ourselves to be open to someone else’s ideas. When we hear an idea that’s strange to us, an idea that didn’t come from someone we already know and believe and trust, our first reaction is fear.
And fear is where our outrage comes from.
We’re hardwired to fear and reject the unfamiliar. And today, with instant worldwide communication at our fingertips, we’re surrounded by the unfamiliar. So we lash out. We reject as loudly as possible, as cleverly as possible. We express our outrage that anyone could possibly think that way.
Our fear comes out as rage. And what might have been a conversation, an interaction that might have made all involved wiser, becomes a shouting match instead.
Maybe we should start taking a moment to try to understand before we react.
Maybe we should make an effort to learn where someone is coming from before we loudly dismiss them as an idiot.
Maybe we should take a moment to acknowledge our fear before we lash out. Maybe we should acknowledge that the person we would lash out against is probably afraid, too.
Maybe we should give ourselves–and everybody else–a break from the outrage.