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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Rage-bait threatens politics

Recently, I have noticed an uptick in social media content that employs a practice called “rage-baiting.” This phenomenon, also referred to as “rage-farming,” describes the intentional practice of posting content that elicits anger, to increase engagement with their profiles.

While this type of content typically manifests itself in harmless ways, it can exceed superficial internet trolling. There can be drastic consequences to “rage-baiting,” as it succeeds at deepening divides between individuals in the virtual world and the greater political environment.

Harmless examples can include accounts following the lives of couples, who may employ this tactic by pretending to fight on camera. These conflicts make audience members angry at one side or another, encouraging them to argue in favor of their position in comment sections.

Alternatively, people may present themselves as more incompetent than they really are. This encourages the audience to correct or berate the user in the comments, further increasing traffic to their account.

TikTok and Instagram have no way of knowing if this engagement is negative or positive. Therefore, any kind of enthusiastic engagement signals to social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram that this account posts appealing content that should be shown to more users.

This only increases their fame and opportunities to monetize their content in the future. TikTok and Instagram both have numerous options for creators to monetize their posts. Content with greater engagement typically results in creators receiving bigger paychecks.

The promise of fame and fortune that rage-baiting provides has only drawn more people to participate in it. Harmless or annoying content still dominates the space, but more malicious content has taken root.

Some social media users are taking advantage of the pain and suffering occurring in Gaza to create rage-baiting content. Users on social media platform, X, formerly known as Twitter, have complained of seeing a flood of misinformation surrounding the Israel-Hamas conflict.

False information can alter people’s perceptions of the conflict, encouraging people to take increasingly extreme positions on this complex and delicate issue. As people are pushed further to the margins, it can also inspire people to take radical action, leading to political violence such as that perpetuated against Palestinian and Israeli students on college campuses.

Rage-baiting has also been used to increase the circulation of right-wing conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theorists have to stir up anger in their audiences, in order to get them fully on board with their rhetoric.

For example, Former President Donald Trump, engaged in a very extreme form of a rage-baiting over X, which inspired the actions of rioters at Capitol Hill Jan. 6, 2021.

His post, calling out his Vice President, Mike Pence, for not having the courage to overturn the election, enraged his audience of loyal supporters. This tweet coincided with chants from rioters calling to “hang Mike Pence,” while they carried in gallows to the front of the capitol.

Besides these examples of extreme violence coming from rage-baiting, the practice also destroys our ability to communicate in a functioning democracy. Rage-baiting is typically facilitated by a party that is behaving disingenuously, so they are unwilling to cooperate with the other side.

Our current political landscape is shaped so much more by our virtual world, and the debates occurring over the internet are foundational to the future of this country. The future of the free world is in the hands of voters who consume politics through Instagram and TikTok.

We cannot afford to succumb to rage-bait in such a volatile time. Social media platforms have made this type of content so lucrative, so it is highly unlikely users will ever stop posting it.

The platforms must take responsibility and start to crack down on rage bait. Until they do, it is up to consumers to be able to discern content made in good faith from content that is created with the sole purpose of getting attention.

It is pertinent that we become aware of the ever-growing threat of rage-bait and learn to observe patterns of cynical, outrageous content on social media.

This story was written by Joey Schamber. He can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Joseph Schamber, Opinions Columnist
Joey Schamber is a first-year from Downers Grove, Illinois studying journalism and is an opinions columnist at the Marquette Wire for the 2023-2024 school year. Outside of the Wire he enjoys cooking, drawing and skateboarding. He is excited to be writing stories and to be active in his community!

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