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IT’S SCIENCE: Ranting and raving at people all day on the internet isn’t good for you

Sometimes you just need to get off the internet for a little while.
Sometimes you just need to get off the internet for a little while.

So it turns out that yelling about people you hate all day every day on the internet isn’t really very good for you.

As an article in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week notes,

The research has been clear for decades: Venting is bad for us. …

 

In studies, people report that they feel better after venting. But researchers find they actually become angrier and more aggressive. People who vent anonymously may become the angriest and most aggressive.

In fact, “venting” is really the wrong word for it. Anger doesn’t build up in our body like some sort of gas, that we can relieve with a series of loud and smelly anger-farts on Twitter or in the comment section of a newspaper article we disagree with.

The “venting” theory has been with us a long time, the WSJ piece notes, and it seems to make sense on an intuitive level.

Venting has an ancient history. Aristotle believed in catharsis—the purging of emotions. More recently, Sigmund Freud talked about the hydraulic model, saying that if someone holds anger inside without letting it out, it will build to dangerous levels, much the way steam in a pressure cooker will build if it is not vented.

But anger isn’t a gas. Those who’ve studied the issue suggest that “venting” — whether in person or anonymously on the internet — causes us to become more obsessed with what is angering us, not less. Instead of purging our anger, we end up stewing in our own juices — to switch the metaphor from gas to liquid.

I certainly see plenty of evidence of this amongst the people I write about on this blog and on the internet at large. Those who “vent” their anger the most vociferously don’t get less angry over time, as you would expect if they were actually “venting” something toxic inside of them. Instead, many of them just get angrier and angrier.

We might consider the sad (and very, very angry) career of a certain former A Voice for Men bigwig, who went from being the only member of the AVFM collective who seemed to have any degree of self-awareness to someone who spends his days lashing out at feminists and former allies in what has become a neverending Twitter meltdown.

We might consider the assorted YouTube yellers who’ve become perpetual rage machines; no matter how many rants they upload to YouTube on the purported evils of Anita Sarkeesian or Anita Sarkeesian or even Anita Sarkeesian, their rage is never ever “vented.”

I mean, look at this guy:

That’s no way to live.

The problem isn’t just the anger; it’s the obsession. One of the main reasons that “venting” keeps you angry is that it leads you to ruminate longer about the things that infuriate you the most, when it would be much more healthy for you to stop thinking about these things at all.

Now, obviously, I spend a decent portion of my days reading about, writing about, and sometimes even arguing with, some pretty hateful shitheads. I think it’s important to write about these people. But I try not to let them dominate my life and my thoughts to the exclusion of everything else, and I try not to let my anger at them overcome me.

I don’t read the comments on my YouTube videos. (Well, not regularly.) I avoid tit-for-tat Twitter battles with sea-lions and dogpilers. (Well, most of the time.) I clear my head watching dumb TV and playing Alphabear and doing various other things that have nothing whatsoever to do with the ridiculous and infuriating misogynists of the internet.

And I hope the rest of you are doing that too.

Well, I know a lot of you are, if the wonderfully digressive comments you all leave on this blog make clear. Because talking about games and recipes and posting cat pics and other brain bleach really does keep us all a bit healthier.

Which reminds me: I haven’t posted any open threads in a while. I’ll go do that now.

In the meantime, here’s ten hours of a snow shovel that sounds like “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

H/T — r/GamerGhazi

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Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
6 years ago

All movies in production, right now, should just add a scene with a boner and some cunnilingus. Just every movie, add an erection and some eating out. They can’t rate them ALL NC-17. SOME of them will be rated just R.

Just saying.

Bina
6 years ago

Objectification of men is like racism against white people. Or misandry for that matter. It’s not a thing. Men are not viewed as the sexual class. Seeing a picture of glittery man abs does not contribute to a culture where men are seen as sex objects because we live in a culture where men are seen as human.

Bingo. There is NO “reverse sexism”, no “misandry”, and no “male objectification” (at least not among heterosexual women*), because the culture we live in has it go one way only. Men have the power, and women are made to submit, even if that means literally becoming a table, a doormat, etc. (I’m not kidding; there are scads of ads, and not all of them from the 1950s, that show exactly that. Some are quite recent.)

But yeah, Glitter Abs Guy, whoever he is, is not an object in my eyes. He’s a person who may, for all we know, quite enjoy rubbing sparkly stuff on himself after a long hard day of keeping those abs up. Maybe even for an audience. He’s fun to look at because he appears to be enjoying himself there, and we get to share in his enjoyment by watching him at it. Not because he’s a glittery, life-size Oscar statue of a dude. Society will never assign him a subordinate role on the basis of sex, even if this is literally all we can see him doing. And that’s because he’s a man.

Women, on the other hand, invariably get put in the subservient role, and if they protest, they’re out on their much-objectified ass.

*Among gay guys, it’s a different matter.** Cute young guys — twinks — are often objectified, usually by older men who chase that type. If the guys are so young as to be underage, the older guy who chases them is known as a “chickenhawk”. My best friend, who was quite the twink in our university days, found himself constantly and uncomfortably on the receiving end of that kind of treatment, just as I was from older straight men (and married ones, at that). Twinky boys are, in short, treated much like women, and are often assumed to be in the “bottom” role when it comes to sex, too. (Even if they themselves don’t swing that way, that’s how the assumption runs.)

**But then again, gay men don’t run the world we live in, do they? So even homoerotic male objectification is anomalous. And since it mimics what women get, it’s just the exception that proves the rule.

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
6 years ago

A question, for the people here who know much more about feminist theory that I do, and who don’t mind me asking about the menz:

I agree that men are not objectified sexually (except, as Bina said, maybe in the gay community.) However, in my experience a similar “your body does not belong to you, but will be used to further the goals of others” social narrative exists within militarism, in which men are taught to view themselves as objects capable of inflicting or receiving violence; and that this is usually carried out in service to an ill-defined notion of “the country” but in practise tends to be done in order to serve the ends of powerful men, usually older men, who are not expected to behave similarly; that is to say, patriarchy.

Should this be described as objectification? If so, what else can be described as objectification? If not, should the term objectification be used exclusively for sexual objectification and what term should be used here?

Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
6 years ago

@EJ

Using soldiers as propaganda is objectification. They aren’t people, they’re an ideal to aspire by. While it has mostly been aimed at men, it’s also opened to women as they can also conscript in many countries, so I wouldn’t consider it a true equivalent to sexual objectification. Soldiers, while not treated as people, are also treated with more respect and dignity than a sexual object, so it’s still a false equivalency in my book.

I would suggest either calling it “military objectification” or “sexual objectification” depending on what you’re talking about, and I wouldn’t consider mixing the two when talking about one or the other. They aren’t equal.

Paradoxical Intention
6 years ago

@EJ: I think that can be described as objectification, but, as with most problems with masculinity, it’s a problem men inflict upon other men (as men run the military).

I would also think that this would be a special sub-genre of objectification, something like “violence objectification” or, to stick with the theme “Militant Objectification”. I think classifying it as a different kind of objectification would help people who are still confused about the term from mixing it up with women being placed as objects for men to act upon.

However, now that I’m thinking about it, I think there could be a possible different term for it altogether.

Alan Robertshaw
6 years ago

@ EJ(TOO), Pandapool and Paradoxy

You all raise some very interesting points about the military.

The role of the individual soldier is a complex one; different soldiers have different views and different militaries operate in different ways. One key factor to consider is the difference between conscripts and volunteers.

One could write whole books on these subjects; people have; there are literally thousands of them. Perhaps the most reliable one though are by people who have actually served. Without that experience you will always be to an extent guessing. Only people who have lived through that experience have the personal knowledge to give a true account of what’s involved.

The “Why do we fight?” question is as old as history. It’s almost a cliché that any soldier will tell you that ultimately it’s for the guy in the foxhole with him. However this idea of soldiers as mindless cannon fodder falls far short of a true explanation and is, to be honest, quite insulting. It assumes soldiers are naïve and have no agency.

People join up for a variety of reasons that range from it being the only available job opportunity to e genuine wish to protect his or her fellow citizens (cf the post 9/11 upsurge in recruitment). Some people just find it an interesting career.

It’s also worth remembering that only about 1 in 7 soldiers has any sort of combat role. There are cooks, mechanics, file clerks etc. But whilst frontline soldiers will make derisory comments about REMFs they do appreciate the essential role they play. As the aphorism goes “Amateurs think tactics, professionals think logistics”.

Most soldiers have a better grasp of international politics than any civilian, warfare just being an extension of politics. They are the ones at the pointy end and they see what’s going on. You can read all the WSJ articles you like but only by speaking and interacting with the citizens of Iraq/Syria can you get a true grasp of say, Shia vs Sunni antagonism on the ground.

It’s true that many conflicts are about resources (that in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, your everyday life relies on goods and services that would not be possible without say, protecting the sealanes) but soldiers also perform humanitarian work and realistically are the most effective body at this.

We can all say “what a shame” when we see Ebola victims, but it’s the British Army who built the hospitals and provided the doctors to treat the epidemic.

We can shake our heads at the news ISIS have a policy of systematic rape, but it’s the Peshmerga and US and YK special forces actually doing something about it.

People talk about a war on the muslim world, but it was Western forces that intervened in the Serbian genocide against the muslim population of the Balkans.

Soldiers do have moral agency, and they are a lot more intelligent than many give them credit for. Yes they follow lawful orders (but most know when not to cross the line, don’t forget it was soldiers who tried to stop and then brought attention to the My Lai massacre, it was politicians who covered it up).

People may talk (usually incorrectly) about “illegal wars” but when the democratically elected government of a nation sends its soldiers to war then the soldiers have to go. A country where the soldiers pick and choose which battles to fight is a military dictatorship.

Tl;dr If you haven’t served you need to be careful about judging those who have.

weirwoodtreehugger
6 years ago

EJ,
Treating soldiers like objects has a lot to do with class oppression IMO. The propaganda that is used to recruit is definitely all about getting lower to lower middle class people to be willing to give their bodies to serve the agenda of the wealthy and powerful. I think this is also part of why police in the US have become so militarized. The agenda isn’t merely a foreign policy one when we have increasing income inequality causing the potential for domestic unrest against the 1%. I love Clarence Darrow’s speech on how the law and law enforcement is set up specifically to keep the rich rich and the poor poor. But I’m starting to drift off topic here.

Have you seen Farenheit 9/11? Michael Moore follows some military (Army, IIRC ) recruiters. They specifically went to the mall in the lower income part of town and avoided the mall in the wealthier area to recruit. So I don’t think it’s out of line to call it objectification. Powerful groups always treat members of oppressed groups as things.

weirwoodtreehugger
6 years ago

Here’s that Clarence Darrow speech if anyone is interested. I definitely recommend it. It’s a great read and just as radical today as it was 100 years or so ago. http://www.bopsecrets.org/CF/darrow.htm

Bina
6 years ago

Soldiers do have moral agency, and they are a lot more intelligent than many give them credit for. Yes they follow lawful orders (but most know when not to cross the line, don’t forget it was soldiers who tried to stop and then brought attention to the My Lai massacre, it was politicians who covered it up).

Chelsea Manning also comes to mind — she was “only” a private, from a very modest background and with more than her share of difficulties due to being trans and unable to come out yet in a military where “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was still law, but one who knew (quite literally) where all the US military and CIA’s bodies were buried. She used a Lady Gaga CD, repurposing it ingeniously to smuggle the infamous “Collateral Murder” video out to Wikileaks. She could have sat on the secrets indefinitely and saved her own ass*, but she knew that there were compelling reasons (ending wars, occupations, etc.) to get them out and under public scrutiny. She may be in jail now, but she’s a hero to millions. And whenever she does get out, she will be hailed as such.

Ditto Edward Snowden — he was just a geek with no college education (his folks probably couldn’t afford it), yet his talent for hacking made him an undercover agent of the NSA. Since he was young and relatively lacking in formal education, his career prospects outside the “security” machine were limited. They probably figured that a guy like him, with no illustrious credits to his record, would keep his head down and do as told, but he too spilled the beans (again, to Wikileaks) and is now living in exile, in Russia.

The US military’s biggest mistake is assuming that its “recruits” (for they are no longer officially conscripts, but rather driven to “volunteer” by poverty) are just blindly loyal, that their lack of other choices will somehow render them morally incompetent. They keep forgetting that people who come from humble backgrounds don’t just have everything to gain by doing as they’re told; they have little to lose by disobeying. The “freedom” they live in is an illusion, and they know it better than just about anyone. So they consider prison or exile to be a price worth paying for telling the truth.

*But then again, let’s face it, people who sit on secrets to save their own butts usually end up eaten alive by what they know and can’t tell. I’d rather endure torture myself than have that mental cancer forever gnawing away inside of me. I bet that if someone did a study probing mental illnesses, or drug and alcohol addiction rates among covert operatives who remain loyal, they’d find something staggeringly higher than the average among the general population.

Aunt Edna
Aunt Edna
6 years ago

@EJ (the other one):

Do you do astrophotography?

Alan Robertshaw
6 years ago

@ Bina

(his folks probably couldn’t afford it),

His mother and father both had high paying jobs working for the Government. He was studying for an online degree whilst working for an anime company (had had a love of Japanese culture.

Chelsea Manning was a vulnerable and naïve person exploited by a narcissistic rapist. By her own admission she had no idea what the documents leaked contained; it was just an info dump.

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