One of our clients recently dealt with a situation aboard one of its cruise ships, in which guests inserted themselves into an alleged accident that did not involve a family member or a guest from their party. However, by inserting themselves on social media, posting videos and pictures of this alleged incident, they did not assist the guest directly, but instead attempted to create “outrage” on their personal social media accounts as well as on our client’s page.

When confronted about the social media posts and their uninformed view of the situation by the ship’s crew, they became volatile and began to post harassing, vulgar, threatening messages to the crew members’ social media pages. The guests also posted on their personal social media accounts that they had suffered mistreatment and discrimination on the basis of nationality. After this, fearing that the situation would escalate further, the ship disembarked the guests before the end of the cruise.

This incident on a cruise ship is indicative, in a microcosm, of a culture that has permeated news media, social media and our daily interpersonal relations — “outrage culture.”

“Outrage culture,” “call-out culture,” or “#CancelCulture” can be defined “as a set of behaviors, usually displayed on social media, that aim to hold individuals and groups accountable for political and social transgressions through public shaming” (Source: Slate).

While it is good to combat discriminatory messages anywhere, it is equally as dangerous when the reactions are so extreme that they begin to shutter constructive conversations and political debate. For example, 2020 presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s team turned down an interview opportunity with Youtuber Dave Rubin, host of “The Rubin Report,” because of an onslaught of attacks by journalists from Media Matters, Vox and Huffington Post on the basis of “views held by some past guests of the show.” (Source: The Wrap)

Both Rubin and Buttigieg are members of the gay community (as am I) and while having clear differences in their political ideologies, they very well could have had a thoughtful, diplomatic and thorough conversation about the real issues affecting the world and many Americans, as Rubin has done in the past with guests that range dramatically across the political spectrum.

This is the danger of “outrage culture,” where people join mindless mobs behind a computer screen that attack a person or entity based on a particular position, tweet or post where it can cause the user to lose opportunities or even employment. Plus, in the majority of cases most members of this mob aren’t directly involved in the issue and simply insert themselves in a virtue-signaling crusade.

Both the incident on our client’s ship and the Rubin-Buttigieg case demonstrate that outraged mobs on social media — whether in the political arena or on a cruise vacation — have become an everyday occurrence.

Respectful, cogent conversations and dialogues have ceased, and we’re left with people seeking to become the next social media hero via their outrage with little or no regard for the consequences or repercussions of their actions.

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