Part of finding healing and redemption from pornography addiction is knowing why you engage in that behavior. There are two broad reasons why people engage in pornography. Either they are trying to find comfort (a maladaptive coping strategy) or pleasure.
One of the most common sources of addiction is actually not of the pleasure-seeking variety but rather as a coping mechanism. One of the greatest indicators of pornography addiction is a person battling deep-seated shame. Often if you can address the issues of shame, then the pornography addiction will be a bit easier to work through. This is even more typical of those who are believers wrapped up in this particular sin and wanting to find freedom but not sure how.
But there are also many who become addicted to pornography through simple seeking of pleasure. Chemicals are released in our brains when we become aroused. Biological things happen whenever we see images of things we find attractive. But ever since our first parents we’ve also got a bit of a law of diminishing return in every one of us. This means that porn will never satisfy and the addiction will only become more controlling.
But what of outrage porn? I would argue that the reasons for engaging in outrage porn are similar to traditional pornography. It’s either simple pleasure-seeking or it’s a more complex seeking of comfort.
Studies have shown that self-righteous indignation actually release pleasure chemicals in the brain. There is something pleasurable about viewing articles which outrage us. David Brin says it well:
Well, it turns out that there’s substantial evidence that self-righteous indignation is one of these drug highs, and any honest person knows this. We’ve all been in indignant snits, self-righteous furies. You go into the bathroom during one of these snits, and you look in the mirror and you have to admit, this feels great! “I am so much smarter and better than my enemies! And they are so wrong, and I am so right!” (Source)
Let’s be honest, part of the reason we go to those websites which we know we are going to disagree with, those which are surely going to outrage us, is because we will feel better about ourselves afterwards. We might feel a little dirty, like we need to take a shower after diving through the internet’s dumpsters, but we’ll feel much better that our actually intellectual home isn’t in such dives. And so we keep going back on occasion to feel better about ourselves.
Sometimes it feels good to get nice and angry. Now, its possible that this belongs in the next section, but often we’ve got unresolved issues bubbling under the surface. We know that we can’t lay into our boss, so perhaps some silly fool on the internet can be the target of our ire. It feels good to get all that anger out. And so we engage in some outrage porn, feel better having vented, and maybe even share it online…which leads to our next thought.
We were wired for community. Therefore it’s going to feel right for us to be involved in a community which has the same shared values as we do. Community is a good thing. Being radically obsessed with yourself isn’t. We’ve got that second one down whilst still striving for that first one, which means we seek community which mostly agrees with us. In outrage porn we can find about any type of community to agree with us. It doesn’t matter who you hate or what you love—some dude on the internet probably feels the same way. And that feels good.
I’d say it isn’t pleasure which gets most of us involved with outrage porn. It’s likely that we are seeking comfort and we try to find it in an unhealthy way. As stated earlier, seeking community and needing to vent our emotional issues might belong here as well.
Certainly what belongs here is the role that fear-mongering plays in all of this. We live in a scary world. We aren’t in Eden and we certainly aren’t in the New Heaven and New Earth. That means that things are going to be difficult for us at times. Things can get scary. What outrage porn does is offer a place to calm our fears. Unknown fear is scarier than known fear. We read fear pieces because it confirms in our hearts that the world is screwed up. But it also gives us comfort knowing that our fear has been named.
Living in a fallen world means that we are going to be victims. People will sin against us and it’s going to hurt. When those sins are the especially egregious and deeply painful ones we will pursue comfort and justice. Outrage porn often serves as that salve as it brings to justice those who’ve hurt us….or at least people who remind us of those who hurt us. As an example, maybe your social security check is hurting because of a policy a politician put into place. You’ll find healing when his party is mocked and derided.
There are many different ways where our brokenness will wrongly pursue comfort on the internet. One other to consider is the comfort of knowledge. Occasionally young men will get wrapped up in pornography early on simply out of curiosity. It’s the same reason we are susceptible to click-bait titles. Why do I really care what these four kids found at the end of the rope? But I click on it, don’t I? And you’re wondering what it was yourself, now. It’s because knowledge makes us feel safer. We often engage in outrage porn because we are doing what my friend calls “opposition research”. But again, it’s the same issue—we are pursuing comfort in the wrong place.
That’s really the issue, isn’t it? The fundamental issue with traditional pornography is that we are pursuing pleasure and comfort in a place where we aren’t ultimately going to find it. We are meant to find ultimate pleasure not even in our spouse, but in Christ. We will not find healing and redemption in traditional pornography or outrage porn. That ultimately comes from Christ.
It’s to him that we find healing from our fondness for outrage porn…
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