Today I was outraged by five things. My heart raced, I became indignant and self-righteous, and then, after about ten minutes, I stopped caring. Outrage. Anger spike. Apathy. Outrage. Anger spike. Apathy. That’s my cycle every day: Outrage. Anger spike. Apathy.
The Internet makes me feel helpless. There’s a cornucopia of issues begging for my attention, all worthy causes and situations that need awareness and time and change. I’ve never felt more acutely aware of the ways in which this world is just fucking us all up and the ways in which we’re all fucking each other up. The Internet helps news travel faster than ever—a constant exposé into the wrongdoings of the world. In part, this is an incredible tool to rally people, to spread awareness of issues that would otherwise be stashed behind a gatekeeper. The walls of the proverbial city have come crashing down and there are causes which are dusting off their cobwebs, ready for their moment in the outrage spotlight.
It’s a good time to be alive. It’s also a terrible time.
It’s an era of mass outrage coupled with mass apathy. Every cause seems urgent, but nobody has the time, the energy, or the information necessary to make an impact. Knowing all the ways in which the world is flawed in a very real, raw, up-close kind of way without the ability to make any sort of important change is perhaps the most unwelcome symptom of the digital age. To know there is so much to be done without any real way to do any of it can make anyone feel like giving up the crusade. It doesn’t matter the cause, because once you unpack the layers of the problem, you end up understanding that there is no easy fix, that no matter how strongly you feel about an issue and how adamantly you desire it to change, all of that means nothing in the face of institutions which are built upon your ignorance.
We’re a generation overwhelmed by outrage with absolutely nowhere to funnel that anger. Every cause wants to be an advocate. Every cause feels like The Most Important Cause. Yet, when everything demands attention, nothing does.
I, for one, feel incredibly hopeless pretty much all the time. I’ll sign onto Twitter and see that something new has happened which demands my outrage and I’ll willingly give it. This needs to change! This is wrong! How are people like this! I become a flurry of exclamation-pointed indignation, spewing out “awareness” to my followers who likely all have the same views as me. I think I’m doing something, that using my voice is important and maybe it is. But, it doesn’t feel like enough and nothing feels like enough.
Someone once told me that being numb is not the absence of feeling, but the sensation of feeling too much at once. This is how I feel about the state of our world right now.
Someone once told me that being numb is not the absence of feeling, but the sensation of feeling too much at once. This is how I feel about the state of our world right now—numb. It’s too many feelings at once, too much injustice and hate and greed and senseless violence. Not to mention that living is a thing, too. Surviving. Treading water. Sometimes it takes about all the energy I have to get out of bed at a reasonable time and fire up the computer only to get sucked back into the outrage cycle.
Outrage. Anger spike. Apathy.
It seems like we have to do more and perhaps we need to—that maybe we are a generation of carelessness. But, I have a different view. I don’t think we—millennials, for lack of a better word—are selfish or entitled or incapable of seeing beyond our own little worlds. Maybe we’re just cynical about the prospect of meaningful change. Maybe we’ve realized that being hopeful is a personal liability, that it’s insane to believe anything as useless as our voice can create change on a level that will impact anyone.
Sure, change happens. Awareness brings issues to the forefront that would otherwise have been buried. The little goodness meter gets pushed up a few spots every so often. But, usually we see that the amount of effort never reaps the wanted rewards. It feels like we're pushing a boulder up a mountain, pushing and pushing and thinking we’re almost to the top only to realize we’re still close enough to see where we began.
I want to believe in the hope of change. I want my idealism to fuel efforts that will rise to the level that is needed in order to make a lasting impact. I want so much for our collective outrage to mean something, to change hearts and minds. I want to see the boulder move more than a foot up the mountain. I want to be able, in my lifetime, to see the miles of footsteps we’ve taken forward as humans.
But, my hope, that burning hope I still hold within me is tired. It’s flickering. I fear it can simply burn out any moment.