A Back-to-Work Guide to Internet Outrage

On the Internet, there are certain principles that remain the same, regardless of the breaks you take or long weekends that are thrust upon you without your approval. One of those things is anger. 

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The first day back at work after a long weekend can be particularly gruesome. This is because in those three long, glorious days since you've been at your office job, you've remembered how to live your life outside of the Internet.

You've perhaps experimented with human conversations and socializing. Maybe if things went really well, you even enjoyed a bit of physical contact, maybe you shared wine in a park, let the sun briefly light upon your pallid shoulders, maybe you laughed out loud at something someone said rather than the .gif or email or gchat they sent. Maybe you were briefly alive again, and now you're back at work, staring at a computer, sneaking peaks at your favorite news sites or whatnot  to pass the weary hours. Maybe you're trying to remember how you do this thing, this Internet thing, this workaday thing. It seems weird, today, doesn't it? Everything just a bit off, as if you're jet-lagged or numbed in the brain or possibly drugged?

Not to worry! Reading the Internet is like riding a bicycle, except you don't burn as many calories or have the health benefits of being in the fresh air. But there are certain principles that remain the same, constants that you know in the back of your brains and tips of your fingers regardless of the breaks you take or long weekends that are thrust upon you without your approval. One of those things is anger. On the Internet, we often call this Outrage, often appending it with the word "Internet" to distinguish it from the regular sort. This means, you get mad about things, things you see on the Internet. Try it, it is fun! Herewith, the varied ways in which to experience this emotion, ranging from amateur dalliances to full-on rage.

Spoiler Outrage. This type of anger arises when one searches for, say, Mad Men via Google or Twitter before one has actually seen the episode that one secretly deeply wants to find out about. Or perhaps one simply follows a lot of people who tweet about said thing, and one cannot stand to not be on Twitter, not for less than one half of one second, so one stays on it and SEES THINGS. Once one finds the thing he is seeking online, or completely accidentally is drawn to it like a fly to artisanal honey, one cannot help but read it, maybe even spending quality time with it, luxuriating in every word and syllable. But then, a bile rises up from deep within, because the joy of experiencing the episode—or the movie, or the book, or whatever it is that might be spoiled—has been spoiled. This is through no fault of the reader's, thinks the reader, even though it is the reader's eyes that saw the thing, it is the reader's heart that is judging and hardening. It is the fault of the vile, sordid, spoiling-things-Internet for ruining virtually any and all surprises from here unto eternity. See: Any movie review that does not contain the phrase "spoiler alert."

Thought Catalog Outrage. This is when you click on a Thought Catalog link (or, perhaps, another link to another site written by "young people" who seem to have much time on their hands and many adverbs at their disposal and yet, nothing really of tremendous import to say, except, in fairness, perhaps to themselves). And so you retweet them, with a curmudgeonly add that makes you look snotty and probably old, or you share them on Facebook with a rude addendum that makes you look bitter and probably old, or you simply type into your gchat status "Asdkfljasd;lfjalsdjfadsf;" along with the link to said piece. But you enjoy it, oh, you enjoy it, and therefore they have done you a great service, and you should really thank them. (Thank you.) Also, you're not old—you're just older than they are.

Quality Outrage. Whatever that person said, that which she said in so many words, why did it take so many words to say that thing she said? It could have been said much more simply if she were a) a professional b) a real journalist c) could string two words together like she had half a brain in her head d) I forget what we were talking about, that's how long and boring and terrible her writing is, how does she ever get paid for such writing, it's amazing she hasn't been fired from every job she's ever had, this is such a shame, an embarrassment to what were we talking about again? e) I am never reading this website again!

This Is News!? Outrage. A subset of quality outrage, this anger focuses on content choice rather than execution of content, presuming that the author or source of the content is at fault for not writing what the reader wants to read rather than blaming the reader for clicking on something they never wanted to read in the first place. Why would you write about a movie when people are starving in [place which person cares about more than movie]? Why would you write a guide to Internet Outrage when a man ate another man's face!? IS THIS NEWS!?

Functionality Outrage. This website doesn't work so I'm going to kick it. Virtually.

The Kind of Outrage That Arises When You See Something Gross in a Headline and Click on It and See Something Gross in a Photo and Are Mad at the Website Rather Than Yourself for Clicking. How dare they!? See: "Miami Cannibal Victim"—or, actually, don't.

"Justifiable" Outrage. This is when someone says something racist, or sexist, or obviously just horribly wrong and misinformed and backward-thinkingly terrible. (See: Henry Blodget, today or in general, or "Rainn Wilson rape joke," or Rush Limbaugh, ever.) Because this person or website or blog or news organization has put forth this belief that is outmoded and disgusting, you have full rights to rage against it, and them, because it is wrong, wrong, wrong. But the weird secret twist of justifiable outrage is that it makes you feel good. You like it, because it allows you to be right, and them to be clearly wrong (no one supports their side, after all), and that avails you of a certain pleasure in this day in age in which things are generally grey instead of black and white. In the world of "justifiable" outrage, there is only black and white, and therefore, things are simpler; you can land with a whole lot of clearance on the side of the right, and feel good and self-righteous and smart about that, and make those on the bad side feel bad and say sorry, if nothing else, especially if they are somewhat famous. The only problem with justifiable outrage, the most moralizing type of Internet anger, is that it generally goes viral, which means that we spend altogether too much time making much of fringe types who have simply said or done things that they hope will outrage us justifiably. I.e., this is in many cases exactly what they want. (See also: Trolling, and being trolled.)

Outrage Purely for the Sake of Outrage. You're looking for something to be mad at because you've had a really rotten day, so you click something that you know is going to make you mad without acknowledging in your own heart that that is exactly why you're doing it. This is the Internet version of picking a fight over your significant other about leaving the toilet seat up. Nothing's gonna change, but you might as well blow off a little steam, and you can go home with a little more bounce in your step after railing on someone else's failures. (See: The majority of the outrages listed above.)

Outrage That Is Really Just Love, Love, Love. If you're reading, if you're commenting, if you're feeling any emotion whatsoever, you have to ask yourself: Is this emotion I'm feeling truly outrage, or is it something tinged with a little more sweetness? If you like what you're feeling, even a little bit, you might just be a huggable sap, and not an outraged Internet reader at all. If when you get mad, really mad, you feel your lips tweaking up just a touch at the corners, or deep glow in the inner portion of your chest, near your heart, and, if you spend your days perusing the Internet for something that makes you feel, whatever that feeling is, this may be you. Never tell. That ruins everything.

Image via Shutterstock by Warren Goldswain.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.