Passive, aggressive and pissed off: Our culture of perpetual outrage

Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

Excerpt from this article:

What is more likely? That the sun will rise tomorrow or that someone, somewhere, will launch an online campaign decrying anything and everything? It may be an impossible question to answer, because ours is an age of unending offence.

…But you’ll never know unless you ask, and it’s the asking, in real time, in real life—not the posting or tweeting—that seems to be a problem for this increasingly offended, yet complacent world. Indeed, what’s unprecedented about the man-spreading uproar isn’t that there are people on this Earth who have the gall to take up more public space than they need, but that the parties inconvenienced by this behaviour would rather fume in silence and take discreet Instagram photos of the offending seat hoggers than ask the hoggers to move over. The so-called man-spreading epidemic is not a problem borne of male privilege. It’s one borne of timidity—and a passive-aggressive attitude aided and abetted by social media.

After all, why talk to a stranger—a potentially awkward affair—when you can yell into the digital ether at a million strangers, virtually risk-free? Why take a chance at eliciting stares and snickers from the corporeal beings in your midst, when you know that your grievance will be met with nothing but praise and support by your boosters on the Internet? Conservative pundits have labelled the man-spreading affair a case of politically correct feminism gone wild. But I think it’s more a case of stunted social graces. Despite social media’s reputation as the cyberbullying, revenge-porn hub of the universe, it is also, for many users, all gain and no pain. It is a narcissistic echo chamber, in which validation comes free of charge—or, almost free of charge; a seat on the subway is a small price to pay for the righteous indignation of hundreds of sympathetic strangers.

In light of this, it would be interesting to learn how often people take their Twitter and Facebook grievances not to their followers, but to their real-life foes. My guess is that the number is exceedingly low. Maybe we’re in need of a new word to complement “slacktivism,” the Internet-era portmanteau of “slacker” and “activism.” Call it “sloutrage,” a behaviour exhibited by people who are perfectly content to scream at the top of their lungs into a virtual room of millions, but cower at the mere thought of face-to-face confrontation with a single, splay-legged stranger.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s