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Be outraged every day, or not at all.

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When I turned 13 I didn’t have a Bar Mitzvah. I believed that if I wasn’t religious every day, it didn’t make a lot of sense for me to be religious one day.

Similarly, I’ve kept myself out of the national discussion about George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. I don’t have much of a stance on these kinds of things regularly, and chose not to have one in this particular instance. I don’t want to have to play along the selective and time-sensitive cultural debates people have for causes-du-jour. Ones that our social networks make it impossible to ignore.

Ever since Kony 2012, I’ve closely watched how memes around social issues flare up and quickly dissipate with little that has changed afterwards. In fact, this is partially what led me to even start my own company.

Do you care about gun control every day? Or just when people on Facebook share their opposing political leanings?

Do you care about gay rights every day? Or just along the side-lines of a pride parade?

Do you care about child immunization every day? Or just when a pop-culture icon gets a role on a day-time talk show?

I’m not here to pass judgement. I’m probably just as guilty as you are. I am offering a reminder to myself and to you that it’s not ok to treat causes like digital fashion accessories.

We don’t have to spend every waking minute supporting issues we may potentially believe in, that’s impossible. We can create far more good for the world by focusing on 1 or 2 causes with tangible effort (volunteering, donating, voting) versus complaining or joking about hundreds of others. That does nothing but offer us catharsis and condition us to waste time waiting for “likes” of agreement or contrarian retorts that need to be responded to.

There’s a big difference between feeling outrage and sharing your opinion publicly. Social media has made it easy for us to express our outrage on a new topic every day. It’s as if a podium and microphone are shoved in front of us every time a piece of national news flares up, and we all feel required to comment.

We’re not. We can go about our lives and share things we actually have a daily interest in. Our outrage on Twitter or Facebook does nothing.

Let’s stop wasting our time preaching to choirs and yelling at deaf ears. Let’s go do something that actually matters, and do it often.

 

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  • Gunther Sonnenfeld

    Hey there!

    Like the sentiment of this post. I’m going to offer some thoughts which challenge some of what you’re saying.

    While I agree that social media channels tend to act like megaphones for often dissenting public opinion, the fact remains that there are such platforms, and for good reason. Contrarianism, retort, objectionism (a Randian concept), what have you, are part of the evolution of public discourse. In other words, we’re opening up our abilities to express in new ways. In a world in which programming has rendered us ‘receivers’ of information, we’re shedding old skin by having opinions. Opinions are often presented emotionally — visceral or guttural responses are common because the nature of participation is ‘new’ and ever-changing. We are learning how to become participants. This is part of the process.

    I also agree that we tend to talk, emote and share in these grand echochambers. But that is also a part of the process. Causes are an interesting component to this. The more we talk about themes or topics – from polity, to religion, philanthropy, economics, marketing, whatever it is – the more stimulus we create that arguably compels us to action. The difference being that those actions are nonetheless informed by perspective, or at least anchored in some degree of context. Call it ‘collective intelligence’ if you like.

    What matters, I suppose, is that we commit on some level to what makes us happy, and what enables our passions. If that entails commentary, reactive opinion, or even a proclivity towards rhetoric, then so be it. The point is that we discover ways to participate, and in that, we begin to define our ‘greater’ roles. I don’t think that is something that is an ‘either/or’, but rather an ‘if/then’ or a ‘what if’ type of approach.

    • http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/ideas/view/8591?return=%2Fideas%2Findex%2F10%2Fcompany%3Agolinharris Len Kendall

      Gunther,

      I agree that social media can be a positive medium for sharing opinion versus just having to hear it. I’m rallying less against the act of expression and more against the selectiveness of it.

      From my perspective, people are having this discourse in public in a very selective manner. They’re not necessarily choosing to talk about causes that are critically important to them, but rather the ones that are in fashion because they lead the headlines. To me, this makes the exercise seem more narcissistic than altruistic.

      • Gunther Sonnenfeld

        But that is my point — selectiveness towards expression is borne out of ‘seeing what’s out there’ and reacting to it, then shaping it. I don’t think we’ve reached the stage yet (at all) in which we, or most people, are ready or even equipped in their thinking to be selective – or coordinated for that matter – about what’s critically important to them. In other words, they ‘don’t know what they don’t know’ kind of thing.

      • Francesca

        Don’t mean to make it a WWTID internal debate, but I cannot not comment as I find both this post and the debate very interesting (not surprisingly!). Reminds me a bit of Gladwell’s New Yorker article on social media activism.
        I think bursts of indignation on social media can contribute- but not determine- to the shifting a political agenda towards a certain topic. But I observe that these efforts are successful only if they are ‘managed’ by people who have been caring about the topic before, on a longer term, and leverage the social media opportunity to rally up multiple voices to amplify their efforts.
        We all should be- at times- leading activists or just participants. Statistically we’ll be more the latter than the former- we cannot actively care about all the causes- but hopefully some of us will be more aware participants.
        I agree that randomly expressed opinions without a real engagement have the same value of a ‘like’ on a puppy video posted on Facebook.

  • Dena

    This is why I deleted my facebook account 2 years ago. Writing posts about important and outrageous issues can induce the misleading feeling that one is actually making a difference via facebook.