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Outrage Culture on Twitter, A Lesson from McLuhan

Outrage Culture on Twitter, A Lesson from McLuhan

‘Chiu on This’ is a short and regular opinion blast

As time has gone on, I’ve noticed that there are more and more people getting outraged on twitter and more and more people getting victim complexes. As I read what was going on, I was starkly reminded of this quote from Marshal McLuhan, “The medium is the message.” Essentially what this means is that how a message is received changes how people think of a particular message. A concrete example is to pick any famous book turned movie. If you’ve ever seen the arguments, you will always see a battle between those who preferred the book or the show/movie. What neither side recognizes is that the medium (as in the book or the movie) changed how people perceived that particular story.

In the same sense, twitter is a new kind of technology (relative to human history) that changes how we interact and perceive information. I didn’t understand this as I’m a person who spent a lot of time thinking of my individual self rather than my individual self relative to the group. (It’s why despite writing for 3 years for SC2 for free, it never occurred to me to get a twitter account as the primary audience I was writing for was myself). As I’ve been forced to study group dynamics more (as I started to follow team esports games), I’ve gotten a better grasp of it. I’ve also figured out that other people (I’ve been told ‘normal’ people) fall closer to the other side where people worry about and need validation from the group.

So if we think about these two concepts together, outrage/victim culture starts to make sense. For instance, have you ever seen one of those tweets that goes viral and the original tweeter starts plugging all of their social media in hopes that someone will follow? Or have you ever seen one of the news stations just start broadcasting and discussing tweets as if they’re important? They fall along a similar line in the sense that people can now be a part of the medium, that their voice can be heard. That comes with a lot of benefits and problems, too numerous to discuss. Instead, I’ll focus on the topic on hand. People want to be heard, people want to be validated, but how do you get heard?

This is where my experience as a writer comes in. Let’s talk about the concept of click bait for a moment. Click bait is an often misunderstood concept as it’s not click bait as long as the headline does explain what is in the actual content. So when I write something like “The 0-40 Dream of the Shanghai Dragons,” it’s only bait if I don’t talk about my dream of having the Shanghai Dragons go 0-40. Click bait can still mean that, but it has also come to mean a headline that makes the reader feel offended in some way. It’s why people disparage these click bait titles and articles, though in many of the cases I’ve seen in esports, the term doesn’t really apply.

And that’s the crux of it in a sense. Whether or not people realize it, they have adopted the exact same attitude that they disparage. What I mean by that is, to get heard they have come to realize that the fastest way to do that and get the validation from social media is to either play the outrage card or the victim card. We’ve already seen a few examples of this recently with the entire Bully Hunters where they created an entire fake campaign, ignored the data, and pretended to be outraged about an instance that didn’t exist. Another example I can think of is the video game journalist making up that they got tea bagged (or it might have been real. Listen I care so little about a video game journalist getting tea bagged, I couldn’t be bothered to check) and getting outraged about it on twitter.

Victim culture works a similar way in that people naturally want to root for the underdog. Human instinct wants us to help the downtrodden, to make things fair, to root for David over Goliath. People realize this too and can make up things to appear as the victim like in the bully hunters thing. In other cases we have the FGC lie about Richard Lewis and they are unable to gather any evidence to prove their assertions.

 

As a final note, I’d like this to stop, I just don’t know how to do it. If you’ve ever read the story “The Boy who cried wolf”, you’ll understand that a good cause becomes more dismissed as false alarms are raised. These are serious and important issues and should be treated as serious and important issues, but if people go around lying, cheating, and bullying others then it makes it harder the next time around when something real happens to rally people around it and get something fixed.

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