Don’t get fooled by outrage

There is a lot of outrage in my Facebook and Twitter feeds, in the comment sections I see, and in the op-eds and letters to the editor I sometimes read.

Outrage at politicians and big corporations; at science-deniers and at bad science. Anger at Trump supporters and at the liberal P.C. elites, at beggars and rich people, hipsters and yuppies, millennials and boomers. Anger over fake news and the mainstream media’s bias. Fear and loathing directed at ISIS, Bashar al-Assad, Russia, Israel, Palestinians, Muslims, refugees, immigrants, etc.

Before you get outraged again, please understand that you are being manipulated.

It’s engineered

Most of us don’t much like being outraged and angry, yet social media have been engineered to provoke you and stoke your anger. (And before you get outraged at that, understand that it is more by accident and unintended consequences than by greed and other sinister motivations.)

Why? When you are angry, you are a more profitable social media user. You are more likely to click, comment and engage in discussion.

When you are angry, you spend more time in social media, and come back more frequently than when you feel good, fulfilled and satisfied.

And social media are not the only ones who benefit from your outrage. They’re just the best to optimize for it.

Some others are tabloid papers and online news sources (especially those who place truth far down on the list of priorities), populist politicians, the opposition — whoever that might be that day — and fringe groups who want your support.

Don’t take the bait

Anger has its place, but I am sure most of us would rather spend more time being happy, and save our anger for worthy causes.

So don’t take the bait.

If you want to take it down a notch, here are some things you may want to consider before venting.

  • Keep in mind that your emotions are being gamed for profit.
  • Assume good intentions. Most (but not all) people mean well.
  • Don’t assume you know the full story. You don’t.
  • Educate yourself before you comment. Ignorance is the enemy.
  • Be polite and respectful. Don’t forget that there’s a real person on the receiving side of your anger.
  • Remember your values and principles. They prevent your emotions from running away with you.

And finally: Realize that all of this is most important when it is also the most difficult.

Now, please have a nice day.