Essays on Technology and Culture

Outrage Fatigue, or: Disconnecting from the News

With one exception, I have not discussed political issues on Sanspoint. While I will do my best to continue this, some political opinions will slip into the following essay, due to this essay’s topic. It comes from a conversation with a co-worker about Rand Paul’s filibuster over drone strikes on overseas citizens. I expressed my apathy towards the issue—if drone strikes stop, that’s fine. If they don’t, oh well. Then, I found myself thinking about a decision I made a couple years ago, to stop reading most political news—one I still stand behind.

I realized there was a pattern in a lot of political news, especially on the Internet. There was a false debate, predictions of doom and gloom, finger-pointing, and a distinct lack of any actual information beyond communicating the current state of some bills. During the Presidential election in the United States, the media’s regular attempts at manufacturing yet another scandal, and the endless horse race of campaigns only turned me off further. I switched it off, only occasionally checking’s Politics page because of the amusing headlines.

What happened was what I’ve come to term “outrage fatigue,” though it looks like The Onion beat me it almost a decade ago. When you’re constantly getting angry, it’s hard to sustain it for long. It’s a waste of my energy. Now, I find I understand a bit more those who remain staunchly a-political. They’ve developed a disconnect between what happens in the world of politics and their own personal lives, and for the most part, they’re right. Beyond voting, which I do, there’s not much else that expressing mere outrage is going to accomplish. [1]

Since then, I’ve chosen to disconnect from most news. The little news I consume directly comes from either NPR’s five-minute morning news podcast, 5by5’s The News podcast, or links posted on social media. When something in the world happens that requires my attention, it’ll find me.The important stuff rises to the top, the unimportant stuff (mostly) falls away, and I don’t have to spend my time endlessly reading about the latest apocalyptic calamity to befall anyone or anything, mixed with celebrity gossip. Giving up news doesn’t mean living in a bubble, it means focusing on what’s important and letting only those things in.

  1. Ask me sometime my thoughts on the futility political protest in the modern era. Or, read this Tim Kreider cartoon from 2005.  ↩