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Pokémon Go and Outrage Culture} ?> Last Sunday, we spent about half an hour at a local park. As people holding their cellphones drifted past, they all stopped at the same place and started swiping furiously at their screens. Most punched the air in triumph, one or two sank to the ground in disappointment. Consulting our copies of Pokémon Go, we worked out that they were hunting a wild paras. Common, but we can understand the allure. We wanted to catch it too.
The Pokémon Go app is two weeks old in the U.S., less than one week old in Canada, and it’s already easy to spot the players. They aren’t texting or talking on their phones, they are immersed in the intersection between the “real” world and the video game on their screen.
Call us old curmudgeons (an accurate assessment for two of the three of us writing this), but it reminds us of an old episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Star Trek predicts everything. And this is no different. Commander Riker returns from shore leave with a highly addictive video game. Like a contagious disease, enthusiasm for the game spreads among the crew until the everyone is playing rather than attending to their duties. It falls to Wesley Crusher to uncover the underlying alien plot, rescue the crew, and save the ship.
It’s been years since we saw the episode, but the image that sticks with us is the crew wandering around the ship, completely absorbed in the game. Watching our fellow Pokémon Go players, we experienced a feeling of déjà vu. While we doubt aliens are using the new game to take over the world, a simple google search reveals that the conspiracy theories of Pokémon Go are already piling up.
When it comes to Pokémon Go, everyone seems to have an opinion. It’s the best thing ever! It’s the spawn of Satan and will consume your soul! And perhaps that is a downfall of the social media outrage culture we now find ourselves in. Everyone has an opinion and, for your opinion to be heard, you need to hit the extremes.
It’s grown tiresome lately. We see articles from a Christian perspective ranging from “8 Ways the Church can capitalize on Pokémon Go” to “Is Pokémon Go Evil, Dangerous, or Demonic?” While these topics might be valuable to discuss, we grow weary of seeing outrage after outrage and—the following week—outraged responses to the outrages. Week after week, we lather, rinse, and repeat.
It gets even worse when we encounter something that hurts us. FOUL! We want to cry. HOW DARE YOU!? We want to proclaim. YOU SHALL NOT PASS! We scream defiantly as we draw our line in the sand. Lately, it’s the jokes about all these comments about “nerds and geeks finally getting out of the basement and getting some sun” that are getting to us. If we said the same thing about Asians, African Americans, or another race or people group it would be deemed offensive. But for some reason geek culture remains a convenient punching bag. But we digress (see how easy it is for us to join the outrage?). We are not exempt from this culture of indignant responses. We want to get our word in, to have our say. Because obviously our opinion matters most. We are right. They are wrong. They are unimportant, stupid, and unworthy because they are wrong.
Should that really be a thought pattern we let ourselves experience on a daily basis?
If our outrage draws lines that we cannot cross in order to understand one another, maybe it’s not worth expressing. While we love freedom of expression and an Internet that allows for such things, it also allows us to place ourselves as “better” than someone else. And we aren’t better. We’re human souls who get it wrong just as often as the next person. Every time we weigh the value of online outrage to that of making a new friend, the latter wins. Every time. We need to remember that.
When all is said and done, the truth is that we have a few new friends to meet and a wild paras to catch.
Kevin Cummings hunts Pokémon Go under the trainer name Logan24601.
Allison Barron, a.k.a. All1kazam, wanders the pokémon world in search of Arcanine.
Kyle Rudge will train any pokémon as L337pastor. Except Bulbasaur.