There’s a hot new profession on the rise with incredible career prospects, flexible working hours and the opportunity to work from home. A fast-paced job in a rapidly growing industry that can catapult you from pen-pusher to proprietor without a single second of overtime. What is this highly desirable position? I present to you the dastardly role of the outrage-monger.
They are the purveyors of hate who have turned trolling into a business model; the intentionally racist and strategically classist bloggers, columnists and frequently reported Twitter accounts, triggering your impulses and eliciting your responses. Responses that provide that coveted currency of the social media age: engagement. So with every furious tweet or seething screenshot we do little but increase their stock value. But it is also we who have the power to turn the tables.
We first need to remove the ego from our activism. Engaging with a well-known internet idiot may be great for the optics, but our outrage should always be about long-term progress rather than short-term perception. Once we realise that it is often our narcissism driving our engagement with outrage-mongers, we will be better placed to reroute it.
Do this by being fast to cheer and slow to jeer; using our voices to empower far more than disparage. This means diverting our attention towards the progressive and away from the provocative.
When a gobby columnist is intentionally offensive, use it as an opportunity to champion a writer you love (there are some brilliant ones at Gal-Dem magazine). If an obnoxious YouTuber is deliberately provocative, quietly report their content and loudly support an undiscovered creative. Redirecting our sentiments means voting strategically for the opponents of regressive political leaders, recommending local indies rather than reprimanding multinationals.
The argument that you need outrage-mongers on your feed in order to consume a balanced set of views is not a valid one, because social media, by its very design, is not a reflection of the real world. It’s a space that distorts reality with paid-for content and algorithms – a place where an egg can overtake Kylie Jenner as the most liked picture on Instagram. So it isn’t your duty to make social media “realistic”, it’s your duty to make the thing as bearable as possible.
So block, mute and unfollow at will. Because by refusing to breathe life into the very things we are intending to kill, we can force those peddlers of discontent into redundancy and begin to dismantle the outrage industry.
• Ashley “Dotty” Charles is a rapper and broadcaster and the author of Outraged: Why Everyone Is Shouting And No One Is Talking (Bloomsbury)