I call them Outrage Farmers.
They’ve found the secret of “success” on social media…identify an issue that sparks outrage, and farm it for attention.
The issue is often entirely legitimate. But the Outrage Farmer doesn’t care either way. They just want the attention that outrage brings them.
It’s just a few days until a General Election in the UK. Twitter is flooded with millions of tweets an hour, all demanding the attention of voters.
UK politics is an issue I get easily outraged by. The UK is a country with stark inequalities, almost 1 in 4 children live in poverty, and it’s easy for me to get sucked into the outrage vortex.
If being outraged on social media solved problems, my tweets alone would have cured child poverty. But it doesn’t, and they haven’t.
In fact child poverty and UK politics are issues I am entirely powerless over. It’s powerlessness that the Outrage Farmers play on. No number of tweets will unseat Donald Trump or mitigate climate change. Twitter is simply the only outlet for our outrage that most of us have.
What if we took the attention we give to being outraged on Twitter…
…and instead picked a fight we can win?
The 2010s, as the decade draws to a close, were the decade of the f*cking self help books.
Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck started the trend. Now you can’t shake a stick in the self help section without hitting a book with F*ck in the title.
Manson’s argument is an important one. That in the super-connected world of the 21st century, we have to be very careful who and what we give our f*cks too.
Because there’s far too much that we can possibly care about. The suffering in the world is infinite, and its causes multitude. You can’t change that any more than you can hold back the sea.
But most of us - I truly believe those who do not are a tiny minority - most of us want a better a world. It’s deeply rooted in human existence that our value is best expressed by how much better we leave the world than we found it.
So the question is…which fights can we win?
The difficult answer is…the ones that are hardest to fight.
The real fights we need to show up for are at home. They’re the little acts of corruption taking place on our doorstep. They’re the crises and tragedies hitting our friends and families. They’re our own personal demons, addictions, bad behaviour, weaknesses and fears.
The real fights are terrifying. We get hurt fighting them. Win or lose, there are consequences.
Much easier to fight Twitter fights instead. Much easier to take that anger from life and waste it on causes you can’t possibly influence, but also won’t get hurt fighting.
Much easier to follow the Outrage Farmers, who give us a sense that we’re creating change, when really we’re just shouting our outrage into the void of cyberspace.
We need to pick fights. The world doesn’t get better without the warrior spirit fighting for it. But we need to pick the fights that matter, not waste our anger as impotent online outrage.
Week one, done.
Week two of Damo’s Attention Recovery program will start on Monday (Sunday I go dancing and read books.)