The age of information has provided us with incredible access to just about anything we want to find. University courses are available online, tutorials for art, music, philosophy, coding and literature are all on the other side of a quick google search.

“Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.”


Last week I even learned how to fix my boiler on YouTube when our heating stopped working and my beard started to freeze.

If we think about the learning potential we have today when compared with almost all of human history, it’s incredible.

Even the most remote villages have access to almost every book ever written, while John Smith from the 1400’s had to be content with tending the wheat fields, and getting all of his news from people who happened to pass through his farm.

The Down Side:

The downside to the availability of information and the connectedness of the world, is that we are far more exposed to the opinions of others. Opinions we might not agree with.

Disagreement, argument, and debate are great at capturing our attention. We love the back and forth, the “us vs. them,” and the tribalism of it all.

At some level, it’s written into our more primitive nature. So much so, that some people even reject objective evidence in favour of their “tribe” or “side”.

News outlets are struggling these days. With the availability of YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Netflix etc, people are less and less interested in conventional news. As a result media has begun to focus on what grabs attention rather than what adds value.

And what grabs attention the most? Outrage, tribalism, disagreement, spectacle.

Here’s how I see the flow:

  1. In our age of information we are much more exposed to opinion.

  2. With many opinions we will always have differences in opinion.

  3. Differences in opinion can create friction.

  4. When this friction is used as a tool for media and marketing, it becomes part of the culture (the more heated and tribal, the better).

  5. We end up with an outrage culture.

  6. People get offended, and suffer as a result (Orion exists to reduce suffering like this)

Stoicism And The Art of Being Offended:

There is another way, a happier way.

For me, being offended happens when we identify too strongly with the opinion of someone else. By that, I mean we take it too personally, we see it as an attack

It’s not (unless it’s an opinion specifically of you, even then it’s still just an opinion).

When someone shares an opinion, it’s not personal, it’s simply a way for them to explain what they value. A difference in values is not a personal attack.

Values are based on experience and learning. So at most, a difference in opinion is a highlight of a different life.

Two mature people can have a healthy debate about topics like nuclear power, socialism, religion, football, philosophy etc without getting offended.

They can do this because they understand that when someone has a different opinion, it has nothing to do with them, it’s simply an articulation of the other person’s beliefs.

Master these three things and you’ll master the art of being offended:

  1. Accept that you will come across people with different opinions, values and beliefs.

  2. Understand that another person’s opinion is just a show of values, it’s not personal.

  3. The opinion of other people is just that; an opinion. It’s not necessarily reality or truth, it’s simply a perspective based on experience.

So it’s not so much an art of being offended, it’s more an art of avoiding offence altogether.

If we’re offended it’s because we have allowed ourselves to be offended. As Epictetus once said:

“Any person capable of angering you becomes your master; he can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by him.”

The Opinions of Others:

Another aspect of the so-called outrage culture is the hunger that seems to exist to change other people’s opinions if there is disagreement.

I’m sure we’ve all seen videos of angry activists and people getting red in the face about social movements. While I sometimes disagree with modern activists, I believe the intention of these people is normally good (the intention to make the world better), however the execution is poor, and sometimes the movement is counterproductive. Screaming and shouting is not an effective way to change the opinions of other people.

However, I think there is another element at play here: An unhealthy expectation.

Specifically the expectation that; if someone has an opinion that is different from our own, we must change that opinion, or shout it down, crowd it out, and attack its owner.

Here’s how much authority you have over the opinions of other people:

A Big Fat Zero

If you want to change an opinion raise your argument, not your voice. 

Outrage seems only to breed more outrage and contributes to more suffering.

Final Thoughts:

Next time someone has an opinion you completely disagree with, see it for what it is; that person communicating their values and beliefs. It’s not an attack on your values and beliefs.

Instead of getting defensive or angry, try to understand why they have those opinions. The root of opinion is often in our values, if you can understand the values of others it’s easier to understand why they hold the opinions they do.

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