The social media outrage machine

A friend of mine told me in a private message on Facebook a couple weeks ago that “social media is destroying this country.” He has a point. While social media has been an opportunity for the average person to have a much larger voice in political and social issues than ever before, it also carries a lot of negatives. The biggest negative is what I like to call the “Social Media Outrage Machine.”

Two stories illustrate this. First, a professor called for white people to commit mass suicide over slavery. While this is factually correct, it is also false. He was not actually calling for white people to kill themselves. He was being sarcastic. And as it turns out, Sir Tim Hunt was also being sarcastic in remarks made about why women are not qualified to be scientists. Unfortunately, we live in a nation where people live on a hair-trigger and are ready to be outraged at any moment, over something the least bit plausible. We also live in a nation where a lot of people are too dim-witted to get sarcasm. Social media allows that outrage to spread in a way that could not happen twenty years ago.

I admit, much to my shame, that I have also fallen for things like this far too many times.

So what is the answer? First of all, bookmark Snopes.com and be ready to use it. Snopes has been a great resource in refuting some of the silliness I see on social media. Second, when you see something trending, investigate it before you post about it on social media. This is especially important if what you see outrages or angers you. Do not just hit “share” or “retweet” because what you are sharing may not be true. It is also possible that it is factually correct but very misleading, like a sarcastic comment taken out of context.

We may not be able to put the genie back in the bottle, but we can avoid being part of the problem.

4 thoughts on “The social media outrage machine

  1. “The biggest negative is what I like to call the “Social Media Outrage Machine.”

    Anything like the Right Wing Lie Ma,chine dominated by Fox and your self-described “political hero,” confessed drug smuggler Rush Limbaugh, or Acid Anne Coulter, whom you've admitted fabricates her “views” for money?

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  2. If you think this is confined to one side you're deluding yourself. One example is the lies and fabrications about Memories Pizza “discriminating” against homosexuals.

    Memories Pizza does not cater weddings at all, so they have obviously never discriminated in what weddings they choose to cater.

    The attacks on Tim Hunt were from the Left, and the attacks on Adam Kotsko were from the Right. Both sides have plenty of perverts and reprobates, so give it a rest.

    And Rush Limbaugh is not a drug smuggler. That's just laughable.

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  3. Nothing's “resting” here. No honest man would use the “both sides do it” excuse while pretending to stand either for truth or patriotism. It's a sure mark of hypocrisy, anathema to your alleged Lord and Savioor who publicly condemned all hypocrites. Your admission of “pervert” Republicans is likewise a weird and dishonst response, since neither your blog nor my answer mentioned any such thing. That said, since you admit cleaving to a party with “plenty of perverts,” what does that make you?

    Re. bloated professional liar (and your “political hero”) Limbaugh, his April 2006 charges and narrow evasion of same are a matter of public record. He's your man, and you're stuck with him until such time as you publicly disavow him–in short, the 12th of Never. Add in Coulter and crazed racist Larry Pratt, and it seems you seek the very worst on gap to idolize. Thats on you, and you know it.

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  4. No honest man would use the “both sides do it” excuse

    It's not an excuse. It's a fact.

    Your admission of “pervert” Republicans is likewise a weird and dishonst response

    No, it's recognizing reality. Both parties have their share of reprobates. That's a fact. There are thousands of elected offices and many millions of R and D voters.

    In any large group, you're going to find perverts, reprobates and criminals. That doesn't mean the entire group is corrupt, especially in a two-party system in a nation of 300 million people. Look up the Fallacy of Composition.

    To claim Limbaugh is a “drug smuggler,” when prescription drugs were found in his possession, is silly and absurd. He's not running heroin or meth across the border.

    This is from a CBS report on the 2006 incident:

    Limbaugh's doctor had prescribed the Viagra, but it was “labeled as being issued to the physician rather than Mr. Limbaugh for privacy purposes,” Roy Black, Limbaugh's attorney, said in a statement.

    One more thing. Cool down. You've posted things in comments that are defamatory several times and you are consistently on the line in terms of civility.

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