When Al Gore singlehandedly invented the Internet in 1993, he envisioned a new, shining city upon a hill, where global citizens could debate the issues most important to them. It was a great idea: let’s take the calm, reasoned discussions that occur at every family Thanksgiving, in every bar at 2 a.m., and every basic-cable news channel debate show, and give everybody a chance to join in. What could possibly go wrong?
As it turns out: everything. Literally everything. It turns out that when people are given a chance to argue anonymously, it takes about 15 seconds for the debate to descend into a virtual screaming match, leaving everyone involved both angrier and stupider. Thanks, Al Gore! You really did us a solid!
It’s a sad state of affairs, to be sure. And maybe, with a little work and a lot of restraint, we could all come together and change the way online debates work. But that takes effort, so screw it. Let’s all just accept the new normal and join in the worldwide brawl that Internet-based discussion has become. Before you do, though, there’s an important skill you’re going to have to learn: how to be outraged. Just practice the steps below, and in no time, you’ll find yourself transformed from a calm, reasonable human being into a flaming ball of hatred, rage, and resentment! You’ll thank us later. Probably by tweeting “DIE IN A FIRE” at us. Don’t worry, though. We’ll know what you mean.
1. Always remember: it’s about you. This is the first rule of Internet outrage, and you should never forget it. Every time somebody expresses an opinion with which you disagree, they are doing it to anger you personally. It doesn’t matter whether the person actually knows you; the only reason he wrote what he or she did is to piss you off, and you would be a fool not to take it as a deeply personal insult. A political writer says nice things about the candidate you plan to vote against? That’s the equivalent of him setting fire to your car and insulting your mother’s chastity. React accordingly.
2. You are the only person who realizes how enraging this situation is. There might be seven billion people in this crazy world of ours, but always keep in mind that you’re special, and if you don’t express your fury over a particular situation, nobody else will. It can get lonely, being the lone vox clamantis in deserto, but that just means you’re going to have to rant more loudly and obnoxiously than everybody else. Social media is particularly good for expressing your feelings of isolated rage. If you notice your friends discussing a topic you find irrelevant, you’ll want to reply with a passive-aggressive post of your own, highlighting your righteous anger in the face of others’ apathy. Learn to write sentences like “I can’t believe everyone’s talking about the royal baby when [thing that makes you mad] is going on.” Not only will you let people know you’re smarter and more engaged than them, you’ll also give yourself the praise you so richly deserve!
3. Everything is your business. As hard as it is to believe, before the Internet, people tended to stay away from conversations they weren’t involved in. If you heard two people discussing politics, or more personal topics, in a coffee shop, etiquette demanded that you not join in and tell them they were both sadly misinformed. (Truly, it was the Dark Ages.) Not anymore! Do you disapprove of the way your Facebook friend is raising his or her child? Are you unhappy with the pet name your buddy has given his or her significant other? Jump right in! Private conversations are so 1989, and there is no topic of discussion that wouldn’t benefit from your strongly-held opinion.
4. Learn the vocabulary of outrage. Particularly the ABC’s of angry commenting: Always Be Capitalizing. An enraged rant just isn’t the same if it isn’t rendered, at least partially, in all caps. You’ll also want to keep some of these phrases in your back pocket:
- “NO. JUST NO.” (also acceptable: “WOW. JUST WOW.”)
- “THIS IS NOT OKAY.” (Note: It’s actually spelled “OK,” of course; “okay” is a semi-literate barbarism. But this is the Internet, college boy, not your master’s thesis, so get it right.)
- “I CAN’T EVEN.”
Whatever you do, don’t attempt to engage your rival’s actual arguments — keep it personal, and content-free. Remember, you’re not trying to change minds, you’re trying to shore up your own enraged-nerd credibility. (But do save “KILL YOURSELF” or “DIE IN A FIRE” for more serious matters, like if somebody doesn’t enjoy a particular video game quite as much as you do. You don’t just want to throw these around willy-nilly.)
5. Constantly threaten to quit social media. You might be a master of outrage, but you’re still a delicate little flower, and it’s vital you let everyone know that. If not enough people sympathize with your latest rage fit, regretfully inform them that you’ll probably be deleting your social media accounts, because nobody seems to care about the things you care about — they’re just using Facebook and Twitter to interact with friends and family, and maybe share things that make them happy. Wait for the comments begging you to stay to roll in!
6. Quit social media. In a huff. The huff is vital. Do not forget the huff.
7. Rejoin social media. Preferably around two days later. Explain your decision to rejoin by posting to something that makes you really mad, and letting your friends know that you just couldn’t stay silent about it. Did the political party you oppose issue a press release saying the exact same things they’ve been saying for 50 years? There’s your post! Sure, you deserve a rest, but you have a great responsibility to your friends: letting them know what they should be furious about. What would they do without you? Besides, you know, live their lives and do the things they enjoy?
8. Pile on. The person with whom you disagree might be getting thousands of hateful tweets and Facebook replies, helpfully suggesting that he should perform obscene acts to himself and/or die in a painful manner. But they’ll never get the point unless you weigh in. Remember: it’s only bullying when it’s happening to you. When you’re doing it, it is brave social activism, and you should be awarded some kind of medal.
9. Don’t keep your outrage hidden. A common mistake that angry people make on Twitter is yelling at someone without letting everyone who follows them witness the unhinged rant. Did your bus arrive five minutes late? Did the clerk at the fast-food joint neglect to give you enough napkins? Was the attendant on your flight momentarily distracted when you were trying to get his attention? Don’t make the mistake of tweeting only at the business’s account — put a period first so everyone can see it. There’s nothing your followers want to read more than your abusive whining to whatever intern runs a company’s social media account! They’ll all be breathless, awaiting your angry updates. Stick it to the man! It won’t make you look like a jerk at all!
10. Make sure your tone is hectoring, intolerant, and enraged. You’ve heard the old saying: you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. That’s all well and good, but remember, you’re not trying to catch flies. You’re trying to simultaneously provoke and publicly shame them. Why bother converting other people to your point of view when you can just insult them and compare them to Hitler? It’s not important that the problems of the world get solved. It’s not important to foster a discussion that draws in people from all walks of life. And it’s certainly not important to behave with even a modicum of dignity.
It’s just important to win. And on the Internet, rage is its own victory. We’re not going to solve the world’s problems, but we can at least make other people feel horrible for disagreeing with us. And if you disagree, well, I’ve got a fire, and I’d be happy to tell you what you should do in it.