On Twitter and Outrage Policing

Early yesterday morning after I first saw it, I shared out that terrible clip of the President mocking Dr. Christine Blasey Ford at a rally the other night with a message that said, “Get mad, then vote.” As the day progressed and I kept up with the news via Twitter like I usually do, I suddenly regretted my message because Liberal Twitter took a very common stance yesterday that I don’t really love. I call it: Outrage Policing, and when I saw that take growing on Twitter, I worried suddenly that my message of “Get mad, then vote,” my be interpreted as more of the same.

I don’t follow Conservative twitter now and I definitely didn’t during Obama’s presidency so I don’t know if this is a trait unique to Liberal Twitter, but Liberal Twitter sometimes likes to police the outrage people feel. There are several different forms this outrage policing can take. Here are the ones that are the most prominent and that frustrate me the most.

  1. “THAT IS NOT WHY YOU SHOULD BE MAD!”: This stance follows along the lines of: The President wants us to be focusing on what he’s saying and not what he’s doing and YOU ARE FALLING FOR IT.  It usually looks like this: “Quit ranting about the terrible things he says and focus on [insert current issue here].”
  2. “YELLING ABOUT THIS ON TWITTER IS NOT GOING TO CHANGE ANYTHING!”: This stance is usually takes the “quit talking and do something” angle of outrage policing.
  3. “WHY ARE YOU SURPRISED?”: Twitter likes to get really snarky whenever we get angry at something the President says or does. It usually follows the formula of, “Oh! Look! The Asshole Did Something Asshole’ish!” 

I hate Outrage Policing. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve been on Twitter and seen outrage and sometimes thought variations of these responses but then I take a moment and remind myself of several points:

  1. Many of us use social media to release the outrage we can’t release in our real lives for fear of being arrested or fired or disowned. It’s often a caricature version of how we really feel because we can’t literally set the world on fire when we’re pissed off. 
  2. Don’t underestimate people’s ability to be focused on more than one thing at a time and to feel more than one thing at a time. People can be angry at more than one thing and focused on more than one thing. 280 characters is just that: 280 characters of one thought in one moment. It does not represent the entire scope of a person’s attention.
  3. Don’t make judgements on people’s level of activism or commitment to what YOU think is important based on how they use social media. Just because someone is ranting about a campaign speech one day does not mean they’re not calling their Senators about issues before the legislation as well. Or making donations to campaigns in another state. Or door-knocking on the weekends. Also? There’s always someone who thinks you should be doing something different with your time and energy.
  4. Everyone has their own personal and political journey. I heard a woman one time at a kid’s sporting event who was talking to someone and said, “I can’t remember – who ran against Donald Trump when he became President?” My initial response was to feel self-righteous and indignant but then I remembered how little I kept up with anything when I was a single Mom in college. Sometimes life is too much to focus on the world outside your home, I refuse to try to force someone on the same path I’m on.

I don’t know, I just worried yesterday that my small message on Facebook might be looped in with the Outrage Policing being done on Twitter. I don’t want to ever be the person who tells anyone how or why or when or where to be mad. I say we release that valve of pressure however we can because sometimes I’ll be sitting in my car at a red light and the wave of anger and fear will hit me and I’ll just start sobbing so hard I worry I won’t notice the light is turning green. I don’t know even understand what is happening in this world around us where our President can mock a sexual assault victim and be CHEERED on as he does it. My heart aches for the men and women in my life who have been victims of sexual assault and I can’t even line up my feelings in any logical way most days. 

Some days are harder than others, I don’t want to make things worse by lecturing anyone about their pain.