Tag Archives: #YouTube Outrage Porn

More Outrage Porn

I admit that I watch too many YouTube videos. I’ll start with one, then another, then another. It is clear that YouTube has a secret sauce that keeps me engaged. They can skillfully shift my interests by offering videos with enticing titles, and some of these can pull me into a dark place.

My regular diet of YouTube is pretty pedestrian. I like van-dwelling videos, especially ones that explore how people normally live out of cars or vans. Topics like van cooking, stealth camping, and van hygiene fascinate me. I also enjoy videos where I learn something new, perhaps a bit of history or a video that explains how something works. Finally, like many, I’m a sucker for heartwarming animal stories, and I can get sucked into watching one with an exciting title or cute thumbnail.  

This isn’t unusual, so why is it that YouTube sometimes takes me to the dark place called outrage porn? Videos that are so negative that they outrage and upset me. I don’t think of myself as a negative individual; I mostly have a positive attitude and respect for others. However, once I enter this chilling algorithm, I find that it swallows me, sometimes for days, and I have to fight my way out of it to break free of its negativity. 

My most recent descent started by clicking on a video titled, “Uber rider thinks she is a lawyer and gets kicked out.” It involves a group of 5 passengers trying to take a ride booked for 4.  Four is the maximum allowed for the particular level of Uber that they ordered, and the driver could be deactivated if he broke Uber rules. Further, his insurance would not cover him if he didn’t follow Uber policy. The customers wanted to debate why he should break the rules (they likely ordered this level of Uber because it is cheaper), citing that he didn’t know what he was talking about. One of the passengers stated that she was right because she was “a lawyer” and that he should drive them. He rightly canceled the ride; at the end of the video, one of the riders is heard saying that he would contact corporate about the driver’s behavior.  

After watching this video, I was presented with more outrageous Uber videos, ranging from people trying to scam the driver out of their fare to rudeness at unimaginable levels to verbal and physical driver assaults. Insults were directed at drivers’ ethnicity, job choice, and cars. In addition, several videos showed police verbally abusing Uber drivers for minor infractions, sometimes telling them to “Go back to your own country.”

Soon other videos were coming my way. The new ones highlighted obnoxious airline passengers. Parents letting their out-of-control kids run wild and scream for an entire flight. Fat shamers, angry drunks, and other passengers whose entitlement assumed a master/slave level of rudeness. Entire flights that had to be deplaned so that police could forcibly remove out-of-control passengers. Passengers who blamed the ground crew because the plane didn’t wait for them despite their being late. 

Lastly, there was the sad and horrible case of 69-year-old Dr. Dau, who was minding his own business when asked to give up his seat for a crew member. When he refused (he had patients to see the following day), he was assaulted and dragged off the plane by police, whose brutality left him unconscious, bleeding, and missing two teeth. 

Now the YouTube algorithm transported me to the world of angry Karens. Super entitled individuals who think that the best way to accomplish their obnoxious demands is by hysterically screaming. They commonly assert their “rights” by dropping F-bombs, racial slurs, and demeaning insults to those, they are targeting. 

The horrible woman who marched up to a Dunkin Donuts window, demanding to talk to the manager because her cream was added to her coffee instead of on top of her coffee. The equally dreadful lady who stormed up to a Burger King drive-through window demanding a refund because she was dissatisfied with her food. The Burger King had caught on fire, and all of the employees had retreated outdoors to safety as black smoke billowed from the building. The lady is seen on video screaming insults and f-bombs at the poor employees insisting that they go inside and get her a refund for her hamburger even though the building was in flames. Then there was the Karen who gave a zero tip to her waitperson writing on her bill, “Next time, wish me a Happy Mother’s Day,” and the male Karen who had a toddler-level fit when his pick-up grocery order wasn’t perfect.

And so it went, one video leading to another video. I watched, obsessed like I would be missing something of value if I didn’t click on the next video. As this immersion continued, I felt my stomach getting upset, and I became agitated. I was both angry and afraid at the same time. My reality had become a world of negativity. Everyone was the enemy; everyone was out to get me, and the world seemed unsafe. It was as if I was a drug addict who was no longer getting a high from my drug of choice but still couldn’t stop using. Luckily, Walmart intervened. 

Most of you know that I hate shopping for groceries at Walmart, and this has only intensified since they have gone to an almost cashier-free check-out system. There is nothing like having a week’s worth of groceries that you have to check out and bag yourself. Since we buy a lot of vegetables, there are also those inevitable “look-ups” that add to my frustration.

I had sworn off Walmart, but I needed to get things I thought they only had. I had just gotten my second COVID booster, and I was feeling pretty crappy. I asked Will and Grace to go shopping with me as I honestly thought I couldn’t do it alone. We piled into my van and started the 2.6 miles to the supercenter. I mentioned to them my plunge into darkness. William sighed, “Dad, you can’t watch those videos; they are just upsetting.” Gracie chimed in, “Those videos represent a tiny fraction of the population. Most people are nice if you give them a chance. Those people are the exception, not the rule.” Of course, they were right.

We got to Walmart and tried to get through the store as quickly as possible. But, as usual, many shelves were bare, and the two unusual items I needed to purchase, clam juice and fennel seeds, were nowhere to be found.

Despite those minor frustrations, I focused on the positives of the situation. We did get 99% of our groceries, and it was terrific having Will and Grace’s help. I deliberately tried to break my cycle of negativity by smiling at other shoppers and giving them the right of way. At the end of our experience, we approached check-out. Most of the lanes had been converted to self-check-out; however, many of those were not working. Finally, Grace spotted a lone checker working furiously at the far end of the store. We navigated to her and got in line. She was overwhelmed, and I made a deliberate effort to compliment her. As we left the store, I also made sure that I told the employee guarding the exit, “Have a wonderful day.”  

All of those YouTube videos highlighted how truly obnoxious and entitled people could be. They also reinforced how I never want to be one of those individuals. I guess that was the positive side of my YouTube binge. However, there was also the negative side of feeling physically sick, agitated, angry, and fearful. Despite all of those negative feelings, I continued to watch one video after another. Each one took me into darker and darker places. I needed a physical break and wise words to break the cycle.

I believe that such manipulations are common tactics to increase engagement. This is also evident on cable news channels, whose editorial commenters can say the most outrageous and biased opinions. They act like newscasters but, in reality, are well-dressed male and female “Karens” who espouse their subjective opinions as truth. As I have said many times, stop watching cable news shows because they will poison you.  

It is easy to get sucked up into a cycle of outrage porn, but to what end? Yes, mine led to some empathy and awareness. Could I have achieved those goals without subjecting myself to a day of viewing the worst of humanity? Likely so. Today I am grateful for my kids who needed me to go grocery shopping and their wisdom that helped me center myself on the reality that people are mostly good.