As New Year’s Day approaches, I’ve been looking back and pondering the almost constant expressions of outrage that characterized another year. “The same cycle occurs regardless of the gravity of the offense, which can make each outrage feel forgettable, replaceable,” the former Slate editor Julia Turner declared. “The bottomlessness of our rage has a numbing effect … It’s fascinating to look at how our collective responses skipped from the serious to the picayune without much modulation in pitch.”
In America’s digital culture, outrage is packaged to almost every niche in the citizenry. People feel a “duty” to be outraged by the offenses being trotted out, Choire Sicha argued in the same Slate story. “Maybe you were guided by fury. Maybe even as you cried out your emotion was moving on,” he observed. “Maybe you were exhausted and ironic. Maybe you were playing to the cheap seats, broadcasting a simulacrum of a human response because you, without realizing it, have become a strange magazine of one, a media brand of yourself.”
And then things turned:
You are speaking, first, into the echo chamber of your friends. But not everyone is in your silo. And so then some stranger is mad at you; then some friend is noticeably silent. You are blocked or you are yelled at. Spiraling conversations come from realms unexpected and unwanted. You are embarrassed, or you are angrier, defensive or passive-aggressive, or laughing at them all. It is a rush of emotion that stretches long but is only an instant. Then, with a slithery zip, the moment is sealed shut. That cycle is replicating itself now all around you …
All those words describe 2018.