The Worth of Internet Outrage

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Here’s the thing that gets me about this gorilla story. When something happens and our collective outrage swells, the media know because their numbers go through the roof. Boosted numbers means increased revenue. When something makes them more money, they promote it more, which is why you’ve seen this gorilla’s face about a trillion times in the last three days. In other words, Facebook KNOWS Americans are more likely to become emotionally charged by certain types of stories because that’s what garners the most clicks and comments, and so that’s what gets promoted into your newsfeeds.

Did you notice that not a single headline read, “Zookeepers Rescue Boy Who Fell Into Gorilla Exhibit”? Rather, they are almost all centered around the unrighteous death of the gorilla. They’re playing on trends they’ve seen in the past: we are suckers for the victimized animals. And every time you like, share, or comment (and for the love of Jane Goodall, these comments on both sides are a doozy this time around), you’re helping to promote it further.

But the thing to remember is that these stories that get the most attention, and in turn get promoted more, are the ones most likely to elicit change. When everyone gets stirred into a fervor, when passion and awareness spread like wildfire, THAT is when we are driven to action. That is when justice is sought, when solutions are made, when the lives lost come to mean something more.

So please remember that as a consumer, your response holds more power than you think. Maybe you care about all these other issues too, but if you’re only willing to publicly admit your outrage for a gorilla and not for the 13 million children who can’t go to school because of wars in the Arab world, or for the 663 million people who don’t have access to safe water, or for the 125,000 lives that are ended by abortion every day – maybe it’s time to reflect on your priorities.

Because even though there are so many of us on this planet, and even though sometimes we make mistakes like sneaking into gorilla pits or turning our eyes from our children to take a sip of a drink or help another kid off a ledge, it’s the human life that is worth fighting the hardest for. Always.

Your voice matters, and your outrage carries the power to change abysmal circumstances. Use it wisely.