A Question of Rage

The first time I saw an internet lynch mob was with the Sandusky scandal at Penn State. People with no direct stake in the case were enraged and willing to act on their rage. Though they knew none of the parties, had never set foot on a Penn State campus, and grasped few of the relevant facts, they were using profanity, making death threats, and scorning reason.nittany lion

The next time was with Fifty Shades of Grey. People who had never read the book, never read erotica, or never read a New Adult story were foghorning all over the internet about consent, role models, how to write a romance (the first book doesn’t come close to meeting the definition of romance), and why the author should be locked up.

Passion and engagement are to me usually good things. We should care, about each other and about our world. When you uncouple passion from reason and facts, though, you can go two places with it, at least. You can turn to a world of fantasy, where gravity of any kind does not apply. Such worlds characterize the imagination of a young child, or a fiction writer at certain points in the creative process.FSOG

The other place you can fly on pure passion-minus-any-facts-or-realities is blind rage. When you’re in the midst of a passionate battle, you’re deaf, dumb and blind to reason.

Passion is sticky. When we’re confronted with somebody who’s hating all over the known cyber-universe, if we care about the same issue, we want to either pile on, or be the shaft of sweet reason that proves them to be the buffoons they are. Neither reaction will result in a problem solved, and both might very well result in a problem exacerbated.

The internet lynch mob terrifies me. It perpetuates the assumption that nobody shgood unicornould have to tolerate anything that offends them,ever. It makes reality and facts irrelevant in the face of strong emotion.

I’ve found a perspective that helps me resist the gravitational pull of the rant. In conflict studies, they tell you that anger is an emotion that usually sits on top of more vulnerable sentiments. Anger both connects us to people who share our anger, and distances us from what we view as the source of the problem. Getting angry, while not a solution, can feel like a pretty useful coping mechanism.rage unicorns

Anger, though, is mortally dangerous. Blind, hateful anger is how we end up with some of our worst horrors–genocide, lynch mobs, domestic violence. Anger is seldom a solution in itself, so I’ve started asking myself a question before I click “like,” or compose a rebuttal to somebody’s post.

“What are they afraid of?” Everybody should be afraid of young women falling into the clutches of handsome, charming, mentally unwell rich guys. It happens. Everybody should be afraid of their child becoming prey for a pedophile. Everybody should fear anything that tries to normalize genocide or domestic violence or infanticide.

The fears are legitimate. We really do have sociopathic CEOs, Richard Armitagepedophiles, and genocide. To fear them is not crazy. When I focus on somebody’s fears–and my own–oddly enough, reason remains within my grasp as well, as does compassion. The rage might look ugly, unjustified, stupid, and scary… the fear usually looks very human.Venetia

What’s your reaction to the mean, righteous, blind side of social media? Do you ever get sucked in? Next week’s post will be cheerier, I promise, and this week, in honor of Georgette Heyer’s birthday, I’ll give away an audio version of Venetia read by Richard Armitage… yeah, THAT Richard Armitage.

 

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63 comments on “A Question of Rage

    • And oddly enough, in North and South, he plays a character who comes off enraged, ticked off about everything–class, money, snobbery. When we get to know him, we see that he’s been badly hurt, and he’s dealt first hand with tragedies he wants to prevent in his own factories.

      THEN he goes and falls in love…

      • I still have not seen North and South! I took it out from the library & returned it without watching it. He does look like a cutie, though! As for the rage, I try not to get sucked in and/or comment on angry posts. I just move along. I rant & rave about certain things or people in my life, but I would not take it to the internet.

  1. You had me at Richard Armitage! I try not to fall prey to the anger that appears on social media. I have my ideas and feelings but I don’t feel the need to push it on others. I do read the different viewpoints that are written.

    • You make a good point. I often find the best aspects of a “news” story in the comments that follow it. The story itself is just click bait, but knowledgeable people with constructive things to say often chime in amid the comments.

  2. I think Social Media has made it too easy to fall into the mob mentality without much repercussions. Any time I see those kind of posts I try to stay far away – life is too short to be open to so much hate and anger.

    • And I think a lot of the people who design social media, and news media, know exactly how to make that material very attractive. It’s either inflammatory or self-congratulatory. It solves the problem of “how do we increase traffic?” It by no means solves the problem, “How do we learn to get along in a diverse society with limited resources?”

  3. Not my cup of tea – if you can’t identify your thoughts and opinions with YOUR NAME – then you’re a bully trying to get your own way. That being said sometimes there are anonymous trolls who don’t use their name but try to smear others. Different phrase but same meaning.

    I love Georgette Heyer – I cut my romance teeth and in particular Venetia is one of my favorites.

    • And he does such a great job with it. I wish I were as click-proof as you seem to be. I see somebody foghorning, and I want to yeah-but with a fact, a statistic, something.

      Probably a waste of effort 99 percent of a time. I’d be better off listening to Richard.

  4. I have difficulty comprehending mindless rage. I really don’t know how effective it is at inciting mob-violence through social media. All of it is disturbing to me. I think my favorite response to all of the rage is either “Why?” or “I don’t understand” I have yet to find answers to either.
    Your giveaway is of a Heyer book I’ve not read. Looks good.

  5. The righteous outrage reminds me why our justice system insists a person is innocent until proven guilty. Sometimes the accusations are simply mistaken, sometimes wilfully false, and sometimes there are mitigating factors. Yet it is hard not to get drawn into the emotion the accusations arouse.

    • Innocent until proven guilty, hearsay only admissible under certain exceptions, guilty by clear and convincing evidence… when we’re focused on being just, we come up with a lot of a good stuff.

      When we’re ranting on social media, none of that matters, but we’re the same people. Frustrating.

  6. So this reminded me of an article that showed up on my news feed recently. I didn’t read it then but I just went back and read through it. But, first: I ignore social media rants. I “let it go.” I move on with my life. It would seem I’m doing the right thing.

    http://www.sciencealert.com/sorry-but-venting-online-just-makes-you-angrier-scientists-find

    Often I read comments to see what people are saying and I might tell myself (or the dogs) what I think about the subject and then I move on. Two examples.

    Example 1: There was a video posted with a headline “A Surgeon on how dangerous CrossFit Really Is.” It was downright funny to read the comments because it was immediately obvious people didn’t bother to watch the video. They simply ballistic over the headline. And it went both ways. CrossFit supporters were angry that a surgeon was dissing CrossFit. CrossFit haters were loving it because a doctor was dissing CrossFit. (He actually was a CrossFitter who got into after a patient came in with an injury.)

    Example 2: A nearby school district sent home a form asking parents to either give or not give permission for their child to be paddled. She posted it to the Facebook account of a Nashville news channel with the comment that there needed to be a discussion about this. I started laughing (again) as I read comments. No one felt there was anything to discuss. All the parents had seen similar forms and one even pointed out her kids had been bringing that exact form home for the past 18 years. Different parents marked different options but none of them seemed to think it was wrong for the school to send the form home. So much for the anger the original poster wanted to stir up.

    I make very deliberate choices to not allow Internet anger to be part of my life and I try to that in actual person-to-person situations in my life. I believe that your happiness is a choice you make. Make the choice. And if you struggle, “grind ’em ’til you find ’em” (or just muddle through until you see the benefits of your choices).

    • I’ll check out that article. Seems to confirm my own sense of the situation. A rant doesn’t calm me down. Somebody saying, “It’s OK to be upset, but can we talk about this?” generally does.

  7. I just talked to a friend last night who was personally attacked for posting her opinion in the latest buzz- should people pay more to fly without children. This friend was attacked by someone she didn’t know- just for voicing her opinion and she did say nothing BAD. I, sadly, told her that she shouldn’t have posted anything. We are becoming people who are afraid to voice opinions- which to me is the worst thing. Why are we afraid, because those behind a computer screen/personal device can attack without fear/retaliation/etc. These trolls would never have the guts to confront someone in person. Makes me want to lock all the doors and turn the computer off.

    • Odd you should mention this. I saw an article this week in The Atlantic about college professors having to watch EVERY word they say in the classroom, because students are developing a spun-glass sense of their own mental wellbeing. Turns out, the WORST thing you can do on a college campus is stifle free speech and the vigorous debate of controversial ideas. Bad for the students, awful for the professors, and not good for society as a whole. How else can we learn to disagree without being disagreeable if we pander to increasing delicacy at the expense of critical thinking? http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/

  8. Social media does fuel mob mentaility – I’ve fallen victim to it myself. But at the same time, if we expend a little effort, it can also provide us with other sides of the story that might not have been available through traditional media. Of course, most people don’t make the effort.

    Count me in for the Georgette Heyer – one of my very favorite authors for forty years!

  9. Love Richard Armitage. ❤️
    I have several Heyer books, have not read them.

    I read what others post about this and that….and I have unfriended and unfollowed a few people on Facebook because they rant about mindless things.

    The news is another place where a story or an incident can take on a life of its own. We have a news channel in the Boston area which focuses on this type of reporting. I watch one of the other channel.

    It’s all about choice…you can participate or change the channel.

    • We DO have choices, you’re right. We can also choose how we participate. One of the first things they teach you in conflict management classes is that what you model–your demeanor, your tone of voice, your body language–can have more influence on the parties to a conflict than any sage words coming out of your mouth.

  10. Excellent blog today! I myself have gotten sucked in to click bait articles, wanting desperately to add my own two cents to the whole mess – it’s almost irresistible! I have begun to unfollow or unfriend people who make me uncomfortable or angry, or just unhappy. I wouldn’t invite that through my front door, yet was am tacitly doing just that via social media. I also limit my FB time to 30 minutes a day. Any longer than that and it’s like being sucked into a black hole – I have too many books to read!

    • I’ve trimmed a few people and sources out of my feed too. I think the FB algos will put that stuff in front of us until we say, “NO. I’m not sitting next to that again.”

      I also try to limit my social media time. If I’m there, it’s to be friendly, to say hi, not to rant or be ranted at.

  11. I try to avoid the screaming hissy fits on social media or in comments on news stories or just about anyplace else. I know they aren’t good for me, whether they are giving me indigestion of a fit of smug self-righteousness.

    But I do think one thing that fuels those flame wars is our sense of impotence in the face of evil, whether it is the evil of a single individual or of an entire regime. The fact that we cannot do anything to stop the evil—and that some people don’t even seem to see the evil—makes us want to scream,\.

    • I think we often feel more powerless than we are.

      Every time you hug your kid, you’re helping protect them from people who want offer them bad touches. Every time you change the channel, you’re signaling that you can’t be sucked in by spin, polarization, and click-bait.

      • That’s a nice thought, but will my hugs protect my child from a psychopath? If I switch off the television set or the radio, am I protecting the Yazidi or am I just protecting myself?

  12. I do not get sucked in. I am frequently amazed and appalled at some of the things I see on the internet.

    I express my rage the old fashion way. I sit in my recliner and shake my fist and yell at the bad news (usually on the TV). And no one is there to see me except my two cats who provide the appropriate reaction. You know – “What the hell is wrong with her and when is she going to feed us?”

  13. What a wonderful prize! In reference to your thoughts about internet rage/rant I suppose that people on the Internet give vent to their inner thoughts because of the anonymity. It gives the illusion of freedom of speech to say the most disgusting and degrading things one can imagine. I have in the recent past ceased to look at “comments” under articles and often ignore articles with salacious headlines. It is not worth the effort nor do I want to waste my time which is better spent (walking on the beach or playing tennis/pickleball or anything else you can name).

    • Agree. If I see one of those, “You’ll never believe…” Or, “You absolutely must…” teasers… buh-bye! I absolutely MUST get this chapter edited. I must find another handsome, blond cover model (more difficult than you can imagine), and if all else fails, I absolutely, positively, imperatively, MUST have another cup of tea.

  14. I don’t understand social media rage at all. Don’t people have anything better to do? I stay out of all of it. If you can’t type something nice…

    • You do wonder. Would these folks walk up to me on the street and start ranting about my character, my honesty, my ability to perceive reality, my appearance… just because I might have a different reaction to a meme?

      I HOPE they wouldn’t.

  15. I think mean, righteous, and blind are three different things when it comes to a herd mentality. I’ve always tried to stay abreast of social trends, especially political ones. (I participated in my first presidential campaign when I was 14.) When you are born, an elected official signs you in. When you die, an elected official signs you out. Between those two events, elected officials, or appointed bureaucrats, control almost every area of your life, from the quality of the air you breathe to the water you drink. I don’t understand people who don’t pay attention to these things and then go and vote anyway, very often giving us leaders who don’t have the best interests of the people at heart.
    People are frustrated. They don’t think they’re being heard. And social media makes it so easy to blast that angst out in its rawest form. And there’s no context of facial expression or verbal tone.
    And sometimes there is an intent to be mean. I just sat through 45 minutes of training concerning bullying and how to recognize it and how to counteract it. There’s no teacher on duty on the internet. Obviously, there aren’t many parents on duty either. What bothers me more are the groups of kids and young adults who use the twitterverse to organize their next take over. Safety in numbers. Definite herd mentality at work here.
    But kids aren’t the only ones who are mean. So are the organized groups who have discovered they can achieve changes that the public would never vote for by using social media to shame their targets into submission. It’s despicable behavior in a democracy, but it’s become increasingly effective, especially when those campaigns are well-funded.
    So who decides which arguments are righteous? I’m not sure we even recognize righteousness anymore. We have no moral compass. Our children are adrift. I see it in my classroom where tempers are short and cheating is rampant. I see it in new teachers who come in starry-eyed with anticipation, only to leave tired and frustrated by kids who have no intention of working (now or later) to make their lives better. And we dare not say anything for fear of being fired, sued or labeled as one negative or another. What happened to doing what was best for the children?
    I have to remind myself that the same media that can be used to organize and promote the negative can also be used to promulgate the positive. We just have to do that intentionally, like your offering Richard Armitage. Now that was a good use of social media.

    • You raise a lot of good points.

      I’m hopeful we’re at a tipping point, where the voters can reclaim control of the means of government. One factor that encourages me: As of about 2043, Non-hispanic whites in the US will no longer be a majority of the population. We’ll come closer to being a true melting pot as the century moves along, and that might force us to master the art of constructive dialogue. It might also change who runs for office, and how they behave once they get there.

  16. Goodness! The whole righteous, mean, opinionated rant side of social media sickens me. It crowds intelligent discourse out and kicks it to the curb. I try to avoid politics in social media because it is easy to get sucked into the maelstrom. Occasionally Integrity demands a response, usually if I fear people will assume I agree with something when I do not. Usually I try to take it offline if I can.

    A large part of the problem is an unwillingness of people to actually look for facts. The Internet should make research easy but some folks don’t take the time. The easier path is to always listen to sources you always agree with so your ideas are never challenged. That is deadly IMHO.

    On the other hand, I do like to focus on pleasanter subjects. Like Richard Armitage. Yes indeed. That’s a pleasant subject.

  17. Political, I’ll rant at the governing bodies which are broken. I see no fix for that, vote all you want, hasn’t fixed it yet. So I rant.
    Children in danger because they do no understand law enforcement. I want them to shut up. Do what they are told at that moment and Live for another day. Rant.
    I’ve got another 100 to mention, but I love you so I will stop. I will whisper Health Care System of Greed. Done now. On the other hand Venetia was one of the first favorite Georgette Heyer books I read way back in 1967. I believe.

  18. I have given my thoughts, comments, or opinions on local news social media pages. I have been told I was crazy, should lock myself in a cage or wear a sign on me that I might be identified as not worth saving. These were all directed at me because of my viewpoint on gun control. I have complained to the people running the pages. I said personal attacks have no place in a forum, where all sides are solicited to comment. I have reported people to Facebook for their threatening comments. There should be some rules.

  19. Social media does make it much easier to “jump on the bandwagon” of any issue without first hearing all sides. Thanks for the chance to win.

  20. I try my best to step around the explosive anger the envelopes parts of the internet at any given time. I have been in the thick of it, being a key player in a large fandom. It’s amazing how ugly it can get. I always try and stick behind my favorite bit of John Green wisdom, no matter the situation: Imagine others complexly. It’s a tall order, but I do try ^_^

  21. I LOVED him in North and South! To listen to him read an audiobook would be fantastic…

    Internet lynch mobs scare the living daylights out of me. I stay far, far, FAR away.

    Thanks for the giveaway! I’m tempted to drop everything else and pick up a GH book now 🙂

  22. I like your term “click bait” for some of these outrageous “news” stories that are frequently posted online. And I agree – many times you will find the voices of reason down in the comments section after the reactionaries have furiously posted.

    LOVE Richard Armitage in North and South! I’d love to hear him read “Venetia”, too!

  23. I don’t get sucked in. Doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion, one way or another, but I refuse to have my opinion floating around the internet. THAT terrifies me!

    Also, I was taught to keep my opinions to myself unless I had all the facts. Both of the cases you cite…..I do not have the facts so, not gonna share.

    Penn State’s behavior over the Sandusky’s scandal….well, I wasn’t there and don’t know any of the parties so why is it my business to *weight in*? It saddens me to think he was allowed to do what is alleged or that a blind eye was turned but why should I have any say in anything?

    “…..Shades of Grey”…..the concept of the story doesn’t appeal to me so why would I read it? So how could I have an opinion?

    I am reading the *new* Harper Lee book…am just finishing it as a matter of fact. Now THAT I have an opinion on!

  24. I think of anger as a temper tantrum. Usually when I get angry it is because I am not in control of an outcome or I’m not getting my way. I don’t think humans ever grow out of the “terrible twos” way of dealing with frustration.

  25. I love Richard Armitage! We just finished watching him in North and South on Friday. (Sigh) to answer your question, I’m not much into social media these days. I watch about 1/2 an hour of news each day (HNN) and read an old fashioned news paper. Less negative that way.

  26. it can take only one word out of text.before peoples start beliving stuff without checking the fact or listening gossip without checking the fact

  27. I don’t know whether it can be considered a blessing or a curse, but I have some weird ability to compartmentalise and see both sides of almost every argument. I can’t be sure if it’s a product of my days working with death investigations (talk about compartmentalising!), or some innate ability to Look at an issue from all sides.

    No matter what its origins, what I have noticed is that it makes me stop, think, and analyse before I speak – or post in the case of online discussions. It may seem to others as if I am slow to join in, or not quite up-to-date on my current events, but I would rather let the heat of the moment fade away and get my emotional self under control so I can clearly see – and try to understand – situations or arguments from both sides before saying something in the heat of the moment that will only land me in trouble.

    • I’m with you Christina – seeing both sides. Although, I have to admit to sometimes letting my mouth mutter before the brain has kicked in fully.

  28. Hmmm… I am slow to anger, but once I get angry it takes me a long time to cool off. I normally don’t get sucked into social media. It is normally my family which drives me nuts.

  29. Never liked mobs, in person or online. Unfortunately the spin doctors seem to win over facts online, and people seem meaner when they don’t have to look you in the eye and say something.

  30. As usual, I’m a day late to the party. LOL And sadly I’ve never read Venetia.
    I don’t get sucked in to the rage. I don’t see it much because I’ve only friended people on Facebook that I actually know and like. There are a few people (relatives actually) who have asked me to be their “friend” and I have not responded because I know I won’t enjoy seeing their rants on my wall. Plus I’m all about balance in my life. Anger and rage are really hard to balance.

  31. Thanks for tackling a tough and unpleasant reality. We’ve become so intolerant that I’m afraid to put a political bumper sticker on my car. The anonymity of the ‘net, and forgetting that there’s a human being at that byline, or the statement, to my mind are contributors.

  32. I’ve never listened to an audio version of a book. It’s been soooo long since I read Venetia and I know it’s time to go back and reread her books.
    I hate to say it but we seem to be becoming very intolerant of other peoples ideas. I’ve stopped letting people try to make me agree with them. It drives my husband crazy.

  33. I block the worst posts on facebook. On the other hand, I have a large, undereducated and angry extended family. So between family and the friends I grew up with, I have a lot of facebook contacts who think I’m a tree-hugging granola-eating wimp. And the thing is, I know exactly where they’re coming from. I remember. So I try for a conversation. One of them will post a mean comment, and I’ll engage kindly and hope for a real exchange. I look for common ground and I try to take the conversation to values we both respect. Transforming mean one-liners into conversations is worth doing. I wouldn’t try this with people I didn’t know, but people I don’t know will read the thread, so it does reach beyond my family. It’s lighting a small candle.

  34. I often find myself repeating the mantra “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

    I admit to occasionally backsliding, but generally don’t direct it at one person or one post, but rather take a “I’ve been seeing this a lot on social media, here are my thoughts” kind of post.

    Jen

  35. As a forum moderator, I had to learn to sift through all the noise and to separate the good or merely annoying from the bad. As a result, I cheerfully ignore most of the drama on FB and Twitter and focus on the more useful conversations. Sometimes that takes more eye-rolling and tenacity than I’d like, but it’s a learned skill.

  36. I agree with you, Grace, on the matter of mob mentality. There have been several thought provoking comments here and I appreciate the diversity of thought. While I generally avoid reading comments and do not respond, I can’ t help but be struck by the lack of manners and civility among some of those who do leave comments. If someone disagrees or corrects a stated fact they often become targets themselves. The comment thread becomes a warped diatribe where emotional venom replaces facts or respect for a diversity of opinion. I think one of the reasons I avoid reading comments is that, when they traverse into name calling, I feel a deep sadness for the loss of manners. The anonymity of the internet should not give us permission to insult. I love reading your blogs. They make me stop and think and feel. The comments that follow are always respectful and honest. I appreciate the consideration of you fellow readers and respect their courage in sometimes sharing personal stories. The comments in these blogs could serve as an example of positive discourse.
    Thank you for creating this forum and for providing perks, whether they be thoughts or books.