Why Do We Hate Each Other So Much? (5 Reasons Anger Is the New Epidemic)

hate

So much is changing so quickly in our culture.

One of the things that is changing quickly is how deeply we seem to hate each other.

I wish I could say Christians were exempt from this trend. We’re not. In fact, there are a good number of Christians who are fuelling it.

A few years back, my social feeds felt a lot more fun than they are now. Some days the feed is so bad I just give up…it seems like an endless drone of suspicion that fuels anger that spawns outrage that powers division.

Christians aren't exempt from the trend toward anger, outrage and division online. In fact, there are a good number of Christians who are fuelling it. Click To Tweet

It’s almost as though if you’re not outraged, you can’t have an opinion.

I’ve stopped following some people I used to follow because, well, it’s just wearying. Sometimes it feels like the outrage just waits to jump on whatever issue seems easiest to follow. It’s a parasite looking for the next animal to suck dry.

So what’s going on? How did we end up this way?

And is there anything that you and I can do about it?

Well, start here. Even though some days it might feel like everybody’s angry, it’s not everyone.

Like other authors and thinkers, I’m trying to carve out a space for the good people to hang out on the internet. A space where reasonable people can honestly share opinions and not jump all over each other.

While that’s what I’m committed to, it’s not always that simple.

It's almost as though if you're not outraged, you can't have an opinion. Click To Tweet

It’s In Most Of Us

The problem, of course, is more nuanced than simply blaming other people and walking away. Because I feel the spirit of the age inside me at times too.

I’m an Enneagram 8, a challenger, as they say (Here’s my interview with Enneagram expert Ian Morgan Cron if you’re curious).

Being an 8 means that on my good days I want to save the world. On my bad days, left to my worst instincts, there are bodies flying everywhere.

I feel the spirit of anger rising up in me, too.

As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote:

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. 

All of which leads me to ask why. Why are we all a little (or a lot) angrier? Is this inevitable?

There are some surprising things that fuel anger a lot of us might be unaware of. Knowing why all of this is in the air can help us to filter it out of our lives. At least understanding the conditions that can amplify the anger we all feel helps me manage mine.

So why are most of us angrier than we used to be? Why is there so much hate?

There are more than a few reasons that anger is the new epidemic.

The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Click To Tweet

1. You’re naturally more aggressive online than you are in person

People say and do things online they aren’t comfortable doing in real life. Not only do you try to manicure your image so you look better than you do,  but unless you work hard at it, you’re more naturally aggressive, more divisive and more hostile than you are person to person.

The question is why?

The answer? Because you’re kind of anonymous. Even if you use a real profile pic and your user name isn’t something like truthtroll82317, you still don’t feel the closeness you do in real life.

Distance between people desensitizes people.

Generals have known this for millennia. That’s why soldiers wear uniforms and wear war paint. It not only identifies you, but it disguises your humanity. It’s easier to shoot you when I can’t see you.

Distance between people desensitizes people. It's easier to shoot you online when I can't see you. Click To Tweet

Before you judge soldiers, think of how you behave in your car. Chance are, you’re naturally more aggressive there too—occasionally cutting people off, tailgating, honking your horn, and not caring nearly as much as you normally do.

Every wonder why? Because you’re in a 3000-pound armored vehicle. You don’t see the guy bothering you as a person. You see him as a problem. So you get way more aggressive.

Think about it. Even in the supermarket, you’re ruder when you have a shopping cart in your hands than when you don’t.

The same dynamic is at work in social media and our life online.

When you’re online and you can’t see the whites of someone’s eyes, it’s just easier to shoot. Because the internet is dehumanizing, it’s easy to mistreat other humans.

Bottom line? It’s never been easier to be known and hide simultaneously than it is online.

It’s never been easier to be known and hide simultaneously than it is online. Click To Tweet

2. Hate generates more clicks than love

Hate generates more clicks than love.

Long before the endless fake-news arguments of today, TV news and newspaper editors figured out that bad news sells. They learned how to play into our anxiety and fear to get ratings. The 24-hour news cycle and explosion of new media have accelerated those attention-grabbing tendencies.

Social media has put that tendency on steroids. Tristan Harris makes a compelling argument that algorithms Facebook, Google and other social media agencies us intentionally prioritize outrage, because, as Harris argues, the major social and tech companies have figured out that outrage spreads faster than something that’s not outrage.

Outrage spreads faster than something that’s not outrage. @tristanharris Click To Tweet

Here’s what’s sadly true about human nature, or at least human nature in the 21st century: hate generates more clicks than love.

I’ve struggled with this as a writer. I’m committed to making this blog and my podcast places of hope, help and encouragement.

But I’ve also realized that if I title things positively, nobody reads it.

For example, I could have called this post “Love Each Other More. Our World Needs It.” But “Why Do We Hate Each Other So Much? (5 Reasons Anger is the New Epidemic)” is a much more compelling headline. I’ve experimented with titles enough to know that this phenomenon is sadly true. So I use a little negative to generate far more positive.

When I title things, I avoid hate, outrage and (I hope) sensationalism, and I always try to write positive pieces, but the insight and the irony aren’t lost on me that leading with a negative title gets a positive piece read. My usual structure is that I lead with the problem most people feel or experience, describe it, and move toward a solution or a few solutions. Hope, followed by help.

Hate generates more clicks than love. Click To Tweet

3. Any attention can feel better than no attention

There’s an inverse trend happening around us: thanks to technology, we’ve never been more connected than we are today, and we’ve never felt more alone.

In 2018, the British government launched the first ever loneliness strategy, appointing a minister for loneliness to deal with the deep isolation millions of people feel.

Thanks to technology, we've never been more connected than we are today, and we've never felt more alone. Click To Tweet

While this isn’t always true, sometimes lonely people will settle for any attention they can get. When you feel nothing, a click, a like or a comment can make you feel something, even if it’s not nearly as satisfying as a real conversation, a real connection or true intimacy.

Sometimes I wonder if the trolls who leave angry tirades are honestly just lonely. Just hoping someone notices them.

The next time you’re hoping to get noticed online, put your device down and grab coffee with a friend instead. And if you struggle with friendship, make a friend.

Most people are as lonely as you are. So be the first to reach out.

Sometimes lonely people will settle for any attention they can get. When you feel nothing, a click, a like or a comment can make you feel something. Click To Tweet

4. You know enough to make your world feel dark

One of the challenges everyone is navigating is the flood of information that hits us every day.

From your social media feeds to breaking news flashes to the minute by minute invasion of notifications, buzzes, rings and haptics that disrupt our day, we’re processing more information than any humans who have ever lived.

This is not good.

If you flip back a few generations, you’ll notice that your great-great-grandparents really only processed the information they needed to know and could act on. You only knew so many people, and when someone died, you knew them and could help by bringing the family food, attending the funeral and being part of the community that could support them.

Now, you get told several times a day about mass shootings, plane crashes, typhoons and wars that kill thousands…but you don’t know anyone involved and are mostly powerless to help except to give a few dollars to relief efforts or the latest GoFundMe campaign.

Ditto with new, emails, status updates. You are bombarded every day with information you can barely process, let alone do anything about.

You know what that’s doing to you?

It’s making you cynical.

The media runs bad news, and when your friends post about their latest trip, awesome parties, or fantastic dinner, it generates bad feelings (jealousy and resentment and loneliness are profound issues associated with social media).

Cynicism roots itself in knowledge. The more you know, the more cynical you become. The reason you were so happy when you were younger is you and I were kind of stupid. Ignorance is bliss.

But now, every single day, you see how poorly we treat each other as humans. You see that you weren’t invited to the party, didn’t get to hang with your friends, aren’t moving into that gorgeous dream house your college roommate is and that 200 people died in a plane crash…and it leaves you sad.

Your character actually needs a lot of refinement and you need to deepen your spiritual maturity to use social media and navigate the news these days. Or at least I do.

I wrote about how to overcome cynicism and discouragement here.

But at least this explains why you feel the way you feel so many days.

Cynicism roots itself in knowledge. The more you know, the more cynical you become. Click To Tweet

5. Anger can get you heard, even when you have nothing to say

Many people would say the opposite of love isn’t hate. It’s indifference.

I think that’s true.

And when it feels like the world is indifferent to you and you’re unloved, anger can be a way to get someone’s attention.

Sadly, anger can get you heard, even when you have nothing to say.

The next time you feel the urge to rage, remember, you’re not alone. You are loved.

Anger can get you heard, even when you have nothing to say. Click To Tweet

So What Do You Do?

The future can be dark, or it can be different. Personally, I’m putting my heart behind different. And better.

Here are four questions to ask next time you post, write, blog, podcast, or shoot that email or text.

What’s my real motive? Am I trying to help, hurt, or just get noticed?

Are people better off, or worse off, for having read what I posted? 

Am I calling out the worst in people, or attempting to bring out the best?

If the person I’m writing to was in the room looking me in the eye, would I say the same thing in the same way? 

I don’t always get that right, but I’ve found these questions really help me filter my emotions and help me process what I’m feeling.

Speaking of which, what do you do with the junk you feel—the loneliness, the anger, the outrage?

Here’s the best thing I know how to do: Process privately. Help publicly.

Processing privately can be as simple as praying about it and waiting 24 hours before you do a thing. Often that’s enough. Sometimes you’ll need to talk to a friend. Other times you may need to go see a counsellor. I highly recommend that. After all, the gravitational pull is toward unhealthy, not health. Healthy doesn’t happen on its own. You and I need help.

The gravitational pull is toward unhealthy, not health. Healthy doesn't happen on its own. Process privately. Help publicly. Click To Tweet

Trust me, the world doesn’t need your immediate opinion or my immediate opinion on everything. Twitter and Instagram can wait a day too. No one will die if you don’t respond right away. Strangely, though, they might die a little if you continue to assassinate them in the heat of the moment.

And often if you sleep on it and pray about, or even discuss it with another person, you won’t feel the same way about whatever was making you mad. It’s shocking how often you will just let it go, or create an emotionally healthy response instead.

If you really get triggered by your critics, this might help.

No one will die if you don't respond right away on social. People do die a little if you continue to assassinate them in the heat of the moment. Click To Tweet

Then run everything you can through what I call a ‘helpful filter’. If it’s not helpful–not constructive—don’t write it. Don’t send it.

Critique is different than criticism. A critique aims to build up, not to tear down. So it’s not like you can never say anything negative. But what you have to say should help people get better and feel better. If you can’t figure out how to do that, you’re not ready to post.

What you have to say should help people get better and feel better. If you can't figure out how to do that, you're not ready to post. Click To Tweet

Find the Time To Process (And Get Your Life Back)

One of the reasons all of this is hard is because we’re so constantly bombarded we never slow down to think, rest or even reflect.

And when I talk to leaders about that, they tell me “Show me where I have time for that kind of thing.”

All of that changed for me over ten years ago when I figured out how to get time, energy and priorities working in my favour.

I’d love to help you free up hours each day to do the same thing. And I’ve helped over 5000 leaders do just that.

If you’re trying to find the time for what matters most in life, my High Impact Leader course, is my online, on-demand course designed to help you get time, energy and priorities working in your favour.

Many leaders who have taken it are recovering 3 productive hours a day.  That’s about 1000 hours of found time each year. That’s a lot of time for what matters most.

Here are what some alumni are saying about The High Impact Leader Course”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for providing the course again. It has absolutely made an impact in my life and family already that I can’t even describe.” – First Priority, Clayton County, North Carolina

“Just wow.  Thank you, thank you.” Dave Campbell, Invitation Church, Sioux Falls South Dakota

A game changer.” Pam Perkins, Red Rock Church, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Curious? Want to beat overwhelm and have the time to reflect, rest and reinvent yourself?

Click here to learn more or get instant access.

What Are You Seeing?

I think we all imagine a better world.

What are you seeing or feeling that can add to the conversation?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

26 Comments

  1. Claudia Cumming on May 15, 2019 at 11:14 am

    Helpful insight ~ I always think I can help by responding in a calm and rational manner. Lately I am feeling that no response might be best when anger is fueling a post. Is this what Jesus meant by turning the other cheek? It’s so easy to get amped up and try to match the other person’s energy. I’m beginning to see that’s not always helpful or productive. I hate to scroll by when I feel I have something to contribute, but maybe sometimes it is just tossing pearls before swine. Dear Lord, give me the wisdom to know when to walk away ~

    • Dennis on May 15, 2019 at 12:52 pm

      My feelings exactly, Claudia! Trolls are just looking for a fight, and the rest may be misinformed, misguided, or simply as wrong as two left dancing shoes and it isn’t worth getting upset over to try and change their minds.

  2. Jo Ana Davidson on May 14, 2019 at 8:42 am

    I have a few questions? I’m not a theologian, but I do like to study the Bible. Is it possible that we have misunderstood what happened in the Garden of Eden? Is it possible that God put the knowledge of good and evil in the garden because we need to know the difference between function and dysfunction? Is it possible, however, when he said not to eat it’s fruit, was He saying don’t nurture yourself on this knowledge because the nurturing of ourself on this knowledge is deadly: It causes us to separate from God our very source for life because we judge ourselves unworthy? Does It cause us to separate from each other because we are so busy judging each other trying to give ourselves a sense of worthiness? How deadly have these things proven to be? Is it possible that we are meant to nurture ourselves on His love- His love for each of us? Is this why Jesus said you must eat my flesh and drink my blood? Was He saying dine in my love for you? Is it possible that we are the pearl of great price? Is it possible that the reason Jesus came was because our minds were trapped in the knowledge of good and evil, and He came to pay the price we said had to be paid? Is it possible that believing on this incredible love, the love that says, I’ll pay the price that your trapped mind requires because unconditional love is the only thing that will set you free? Is it possible that receiving this kind of love will heal each of us drawing us into a relationship with our creator that imparts the life giving love we all need to have the relationships we desire?

  3. Tom on May 9, 2019 at 10:21 pm

    Great topic. Love your ability to break it down, then examine it with the truth lens. Biblically.

    There are times when we should fast from phones…

    Tom

  4. Mark on May 9, 2019 at 6:13 pm

    How much of the hate could be avoided if people had been listened to or talked with before they boiled over and went online with their grievance? I ask this because no one knows how many people would be still be in Christianity if someone had taken the time to talk with them and listen to their concerns. Most people today aren’t listened to unless they come with a gang and go public.

    • Lynn on May 10, 2019 at 6:34 pm

      I agree. I was raised atheist and became a Born-Again-Christian on my bathroom floor 25 years ago.

      The Lord showed me in my mind’s eye what church to attend and I did. My first church ever and they descipled me til they were probably in tears with frustration.

      The day I was to be baptized I over heard a conversation about Jesus always existing. I had a total melt down and wanted to leave the building to avoid being baptized.

      The associate pastor said, it was fine that I didn’t know that Jesus hadn’t only begun His existence 2000 + years ago in a manger. I was shocked and terrified at how little I knew, yet Jesus had been speaking to me for 5 months prior to my church attendance.

      I was so confused how He could TOTALLY transform my values and trajectory of my life from the time I got off that bathroom floor.

      I had been saved for 5 months STRONG. The pastor then talked me into staying because he said jesus had perfect timing and I learned that God was Trihune right before my baptism, so I was now ready and I was baptized in total Biblical ignorance.

      Now 25 years later I know everything…

      Nooooooo, in fact the more I study God’s Word and seek His Face in sometimes two hours of prayer a day; I have more questions than at the beginning.

      BIG PICTURE, WHERE HAVE ALL THOSE CHURCHES GONE?

      Now they have these alter calls without follow-up descipling. We MUST help new Christian’s avoid becoming the seed that blew away. However, descipleship calls for a whole lot of The Holy Spirts anointing in decernnent and love.

      I no longer wait for my new church to contact new comers and baby believers and decisple them, in a peer to peer way, I disciple them myself; God is (GO)O(D).

  5. Cyndy Warnier on May 9, 2019 at 4:01 pm

    This is just what I needed today … thank you. I am going to share some of this tonight in our small group that my husband and I lead. We have been in the Book of Jonah … and now, in the last chapter we see Jonah’s anger burn–and we realize things just haven’t changed much in society and the instant-news on phones, watches, tablets, computers, etc., sets off our “ticker” like pulling the pin on a grenade. We need to hear the words of the Lord when he said to Jonah, “Is it good to burn with such anger?”
    Carey, I am blessed by the wisdom and discernment you have in your blog. As a woman pastor and leader, you have helped me in so many ways, I cannot count them. I should call you “Barnabas” for you indeed are a mighty encourager!

  6. Robert Buchanan on May 9, 2019 at 2:38 pm

    Great article and insights. It occurred to me as I read the first point (hate generates more cliques that love) that in some ways social media platforms, especially Twitter treats us like Pavlov’s dog — we click the bait and hate is a reward. Break the cycle (Romans 12:19-21).

  7. thegioicasino.com on May 9, 2019 at 12:20 pm

    Good blog you’ve got here.. It?s difficult to find quality writing like yours these days.
    I honestly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!

  8. Keri Harvey on May 9, 2019 at 12:11 pm

    Hi Carey, I am a big fan. Thanks for the work you are doing. Regarding this article, have you read “Them” by Ben Sasse? It is a FANTASTIC book about this issue. He is a great writer, and has great perspective on all this anger as he is a Senator down in the States. We felt like it really clarified the issue and gave us words to help.

    Thanks again, Keri Harvey (Chilliwack, BC)

  9. Joyce Martin on May 9, 2019 at 10:27 am

    Excellent article! Just want to say, “Thank you!”

    • Karen Chraska on May 9, 2019 at 12:24 pm

      Agreed! You really bless me and my ministry with your wisdom and insight. I am always in your, “Amen Corner!” Thank you.

  10. Phil S. on May 9, 2019 at 10:16 am

    Ed Stetzer’s new book “Christians in the age of outrage” is an excellent in-depth look into this issue and how Christians should respond.

  11. John smith on May 9, 2019 at 10:14 am

    Carey, I always appreciate your efforts to maintain an encouraging, helpful, empowering, and positive platform as you tackle tough issues and ask difficult questions. Certainly, everyone won’t always agree on everything, but I too am shocked at how conversation has been avoided and the trend is going straight to attacks.
    The rest of us are also a part of the problem by avoid joining the conversation because we don’t want the drama of those who operate from a cynical and negative space. Thank you for the persistent and intentional efforts to create a positive platform for healthy dialogue.

  12. Rudy Schellekens on May 9, 2019 at 9:29 am

    I have had an online presence as long as the internet has been opened up. AOL, Hotmail etc. One way I prevent myself from exploding on-line? I use my full name with everything I post. That makes me accountable, and think twice (or more) before I hit the “send” button.

  13. Doug on May 9, 2019 at 9:04 am

    EXCELLENT article! Knowing my tendencies to get emotionally charged by certain types of Facebook posts, I opted to get off Facebook. I actually gained 90 minutes a day to spend time face-to-face with people around me, I don’t have to know all that is going on around me, and I get more work done. Plus, I started praying and processing more, so I could respond in a civil manner, and actually listen to people I disagree with. But, as another responder said, this article was “spot on” and I will share this will my staff and circle of influence.

  14. Dave Francis on May 9, 2019 at 8:17 am

    Thanks Carey! So true about social media. It’s where I’ve gotten myself in the most trouble. Process privately and help publicly is such good counsel. Unfortunately, process publicly is too often the case, especially on social media.

  15. eden. :) on May 9, 2019 at 8:03 am

    Bro. Carey may I suggest that you consider how your privilege might factor into your thought process on this topic. Strip your racial, gender identity, sexual preference, and economic privilege and then go back and take another look at the topic of how and why anger manifests itself in social media in this day/age.

    • Phil on May 9, 2019 at 11:32 am

      It’s just a thought I have swirling around now and again: What advantage do the blind have? It seems to me that often the perceived injustices of “Strip your racial, gender identity, sexual preference, and economic privilege ” are seen with our eyes. When we talk about outrage and hate and social media and whatever, it always begins with our eyes. Before breaking into a chorus of Amazing Grace and “T’was blind but now I see..” for me at least there is a bit of food for thought there. Perhaps a good prayer is Lord, give me new eyes to see old things or things I am not able to because I am blind.

      • eden :) on May 9, 2019 at 11:00 pm

        Hi Phil. You ask “what advantage do the blind have?” They have the advantage of offering a different perspective of the world and the experiences we share. Just as the deaf do, the differently abled, etc. Sharing, hearing, and contemplating diverse perspectives makes all of our lives and experiences richer. It gives us a deeper understanding of situations we face and of each other. I don’t see this as contrary to looking at each other as God sees us and the circumstances we face. I see it as part of it.

  16. Dan on May 9, 2019 at 8:01 am

    Good comments Carey. I’m not sure id this is true or I’m just more sensitive to this, but I see the cultural shift towards anger playing out in pro sports too. Athletes are more aggressive and take more liberties than ever before with their opponents. I wonder if a lack of respect and growing hatred is showing up on the ice, court or playing field.

    • Dennis on May 9, 2019 at 11:50 am

      Dan, I’ve seen this on a local level way too many times. The news in my town has broadcast videos of parents brawling on the field of play while their children, who were actually playing the game moments ago, stand by in horror. There have even been firearms and other weapons brandished. It is ridiculous and sad.

  17. Dennis on May 9, 2019 at 7:51 am

    One of the most intriguing phenomena in social media is the gang mentality. Someone will post an idea and people will quickly jump in with a like, an “Amen,” or other such indication of agreement. That is until one person (who may just be a troll) posts a response that indicates they are viewing the situation through a different filter. Those people who had liked and commented positively are all now challenged to respond with guns blazing to defend the idea, the honor of the poster, and the world in general. What was one person’s observation of something becomes a dumpster fire of one-upmanship and snark . . . and “Christians” are some of the worst offenders.
    Don’t fall into that trap. Resist the temptation to immediately go on the offensive. Stop cutting and pasting scripture willy-nilly to “support your position.” If you must respond do so gently. Ask for clarification. Perhaps the REAL idea is something other than what you understood. Maybe there was a typo or grammatical faux pas that changed the entire meaning. If your response is met with hostility, well, it’s probably time to scroll on. However, more times than not a kind word or indication that you care will at least soften the discourse a bit.
    We can be our own worst enemy in these situations, but we can also be the best advocate for caring, helpful, CIVIL, conversation. Let’s give it a go!

  18. Doris on May 9, 2019 at 6:34 am

    Great article. As the Brits say, “spot on.” I am reminded of TobyMac’s song Speak Life-we have multiple occasions every day to speak life into a situation, event, relationship or speak something that kills through a thousand little cuts. The choice is ours.

  19. Susan on May 9, 2019 at 6:08 am

    Thank you, Carey! I found it so helpful to unfollow some angry, political snarky people online. I can find outlets to be informed, but try to be careful to guard my heart and mind from clogging it with junk. Proverbs 4:23

  20. Scott on May 9, 2019 at 5:14 am

    Super helpful and badly needed ideas in this article.

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