Are you outraged? Should you be?
I don't know about you, but I'm starting to think that I should, all of the time, and I have to tell you that lately I'm a little overwhelmed by it.
Do you know what I'm talking about? Does this happen to you? That there's a weekly-daily-hourly insinuation or a direct statement that I'm supposed to be outraged about something that has been written, spoken or implied, either on the news, in a blog post or (please, oh please no) at a conference or other in-person meet-up.
It happens to me a lot. I wake up in the morning and along with my coffee, an e-mail or a tweet comes saying that somebody wrote an outrageous (outrage!) article or did or said some egregious something or other. And by virtue of this issue landing in my inbox or popping up in my Twitter stream, I am called to action.
This is an outrage! Whatever this is! An outrage! I am going to write a post about this. I am going to rustle up an avatar.
Now I know that I spend a lot of time online. I write for several websites and belong to a handful of e-mail lists. I'm an obsessive consumer of media, and I love my Twitter strong and unfiltered. And then there are those real live human beings I see and talk to from time to time.
It's just that I'm beginning to think that the online blowback of about 95, maybe 99 percent of things is just too much. It's getting so that I purposely stay clear of whatever Twitter and/or the blogs are jacked up about, because I'm getting burnt out on calls to outrage, if that makes any sense.
Last week, it was the Gap logo -- specifically, that they changed it and no one liked it. I knew because I heard the online chatter and started seeing similarly-designed avatars popping up on Twitter that I assumed were in response to it. And because I am fond of avoidance at times, I cringed and purposely ignored the topic. Then finally, when someone I respect sent a thoughtful response to this controversy -- after the Internet rebelled and the Gap, in some fear that they would sell no more jeans ever, maybe, switched their logo back. I clicked on the one link that my colleague sent, and was quickly drawn into a morass of comment sections and deconstructions. Of the Gap logo.
I didn't get it, honestly. It seemed odd. But then again I'm not a graphic designer and I have no vested interest in the Gap. I never shop there anymore, and not on purpose, really -- it just isn't a place that appeals to me like it did in college. And phrases like "failed logo crowdsourcing project" and "Twitter and Facebook avatar campaign" among several actions and initiatives in response to a logo change for a company that might could use a change just seemed extreme.
Besides, I have a job, and a family and a lot of other stuff to do. Gap rage! Gapgate! felt like it was neck-and-neck with National Coming Out Day for civic engagement. And I guess if people want to be invested in the Gap, that's their business. I'm big on outrage translating to action, because without it I'm not sure what the value is, quite frankly, besides the deafening noise of thousands of tweets tweeting.
And maybe it's my baggage that makes it seem to me that there are better uses of time, skill and emotional energy than raging against the machine that is marketing for a major, entrenched brand. And I'm sure there are people who can tell me why I'm wrong and why this was a revolutionary thing that has some greater meaning, but I just saw Waiting For Superman, so I'm obsessing about the state of our educational system and cranky about our misplaced priorities. So you know, just ignore me. Please. Or make me an avatar.
And to be clear, while I have outrage fatigue, I'm not saying there isn't a time and a place for it. Things happen every day that are worth dissent -- even a lot of dissent. And if issues matter to people -- whether it's high-fructose corn syrup or breast-feeding, the state of the economy or something that I consider much less important like a logo that is barely noteworthy in the universal scheme -- it's their right to share how they feel.
It's just that the Internet has given anyone with a keyboard and an opinion the ability to broadcast in a second what used to take at least a trip to the local watering hole or a strongly worded letter. And what that adds up to is a lot of information to take in for all of us who hang out online.
All of this leads to the obvious conclusion that it's my responsibility to manage the information that I take in -- to hit delete, disengage and look away in the name of self-preservation. And then, to decide what, for me, is worthy of a little irritation, maybe even outrage, even if I don't immediately take to Twitter to tell everyone on my list how I feel.
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