This came in from a thoughtful reader:
Somewhere it is written that courtesy is the lubricant of civil discourse. Apparently, that does not work in social media and other electronic forums.
Jason Gay, a writer for the Wall Street Journal, said, “Social media in 2016 is like stepping into a trash bag of angry bees. There’s disturbing, genuine hate, a sociopathic lack of empathy, and almost zero engagement with opposing opinions, unless it is to demonize or insult them ad hominem.” (From “Sixteen Thoughts on Colin Kaepernick,” Sept. 7, 2016, Wall Street Journal.)
The term for these angry bees is trolls. Elpasospeak seems to have attracted a crew of regulars that have taken up residence under the metaphorical bridge and pounce on anything or anyone who ventures an opinion. They yell in ALL CAPS, can find fault in anything, and manifest all the other characteristics described by Mr. Gay. One wonders if they are waiting for the second coming with a box of Crucifixion Nails.
Wait. That would require action – real action and commitment – and maybe personal risk.
In my youth, I heard the term slacktivism — “Engaging socially in activism that requires little or no effort as part of a lifestyle or self-identity. Slacktivism requires no personal investment and usually produces no appreciable results.” With the advent of the internet and social media, slacktivism has morphed into clicktivism, re-postivism, liketivism, and blogging. Same characteristics: no personal commitment or risk (especially when posting anonymously), no effort, and no appreciable results.
When a person was standing on a soapbox, he or she at least had to go to the street corner or town square and face his or her audience. It was hard to be a troll when you had a person in front of your instead of a computer screen.
Let us examine outrage. An observer of the modern news media has commented that today’s news stories seek to evoke one of two reactions:1) you should be scared to death about this news, or 2) you should be outraged.
Lance Morrow, also of the Journal, calls outrage the signature emotion of American life; he labeled it an addiction. In describing modern political discourse, he wrote, “The various tribes have broken off negotiations with all differing points of view. They excuse themselves from self-doubt and abandon the idea of anything so weak as compromise or, God forbid, ambivalence: No other perspective could possibly be valid. … People give themselves over to the pleasures of self-righteousness and self-importance that come with being wronged when you know you’re in the right. “
“Outrage presents itself as an assertion of conscience, but in practice it mostly bypasses conscience and judgment, and goes straight to self-righteous rage, ……But, like so much else today, it has gotten to be a racket. The coin of anger is debased. Indignation has become a meme—not an authentic political or moral reaction to facts in a serious world, but rather a reflex, a kind of irresponsible playacting, or worse, a mania. When everyone is outraged, then real grievances lose their meaning, and the endless indulgence of outrage becomes, objectively, immoral.”
It seems like we cannot be merely dissatisfied – we must be outraged.