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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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repentantphonebooth
repentantphonebooth
6 years ago

Wow, that was really insightful and handy. I have been too caught up in this roosh thing. I need a break.

J^3 (@JoeKlemmer)
6 years ago

My brother is a ranter. In fact that’s a supreme understatement. He has been known to bellow and flail at stupid car commercials for 15 MINUTES! No exaggeration. I’ve tried to get him to understand the difference between letting it out and letting go. It just doesn’t penetrate his concrete skull. At some point he’s gonna have a stroke or heart attack.

hippielady
hippielady
6 years ago

That’s some pretty good insight. This might useful in my emotions and anger management group at work.

me and not you
me and not you
6 years ago

ALPHABEAR!!!
…thats all I can contribute.

mildlymagnificent
6 years ago

This idea of venting probably irritates me more than it does many other people who didn’t grow up in the Freud dominated era. I had several friends who subscribed to the Freudian view that it was unhealthy to “repress” anger. You should express it and ‘get rid of it’.

What I noticed about these people was that, far from being rid of anger and resentments, these people Had. The. Most. Practice. at displaying and expressing anger.

A totally self-defeating strategy.

weirwoodtreehugger
6 years ago

I think there’s a difference between frustration/irritation kind of anger and bitterness/hate kind of anger. When it’s the former, I do think maybe venting helps. At least it does for me. But frustration and irritation are temporary feelings. No amount of venting is make somebody who is miserable and hateful better. It’s not a temporary feeling with these people, anger is a personality trait with them.

RoscoeTCat
RoscoeTCat
6 years ago

How true. I think some people are “anger junkies”. Anger seems to rev them up, and motivates them.

I’m the exact opposite. I find anger, a very uncomfortable emotion to experience. I mean, to the point where I’ve actually vomited.

Bina
Bina
6 years ago

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.

By that token, Paul Fucking Elam is a veritable anger-cano. Unfortunately, lots of volcanoes don’t just go dormant after one eruption…look at Kilauea. Or Mount Etna. Or that big-ass scary thing under Yellowstone.

andiexist
andiexist
6 years ago

@WWTH

Same here. I really do need to rant for a bit on occasion, but mostly about stuff like my online courses being full of stupid. (Like advocating that people who pass potentially fatal STDs on for murder. And claiming that people would, when talked to about safe sex, “misunderstand pregnancy advertisements” to mean they should have unsafe sex.)

andiexist
andiexist
6 years ago

@WWTH

Be prosecuted for murder, rather. Whether it kills someone or not, as far as I could tell. That course has a *lot* of conservative agenda-pushing.

weirwoodtreehugger
6 years ago

How true. I think some people are “anger junkies”. Anger seems to rev them up, and motivates them.

http://static.businessinsider.com/image/53079fc36da8116d2a898dea/image.jpg

Apologies in advance if this unsightly pic turns out too big.

Bina
Bina
6 years ago

Also, this all proves my mom was right when she said that the best way to deal with a cranky, tantrummy toddler is to distract ’em. When they forget what they were upset about, they can’t work themselves into an even bigger rage.

Now, if only we knew what worked on problem adults.

Robert Kelly
6 years ago

You know, whenever I see a picture of Trump with his mouth open like that, I always imagine a really loud belch coming out. Like a thunderous BRRRAAAAAAAAAPPP.

It’s probably on the level of whatever he’s actually saying in those pictures.

Paradoxical Intention
6 years ago

weirwoodtreehugger | August 12, 2015 at 8:53 pm
I think there’s a difference between frustration/irritation kind of anger and bitterness/hate kind of anger. When it’s the former, I do think maybe venting helps. At least it does for me. But frustration and irritation are temporary feelings. No amount of venting is make somebody who is miserable and hateful better. It’s not a temporary feeling with these people, anger is a personality trait with them.

I agree. I like to vent on little things, and sometimes when I “vent” about bigger things, I don’t get angry, I just cry a lot, and I feel better afterwards.

To quote an old favorite webcomic of mine: “Crying is like puking for the soul”.

Also, inb4 any MRAs come in here and try and twist this around to make the claim that “feminists are evil!”: There’s a difference between “venting” because someone (who is oppressed compared to you) makes you angry because they did something you deem to be “out of line” with your worldview and “venting” because society as a whole makes you angry because it treats you like shit based on things you have no control over (gender, race, sexual orientation, etc).

And, no, men are not one of those groups. You are not oppressed. You’re just angry.

gosuamakenatek
gosuamakenatek
6 years ago

I just wanted to say, if you ever want a good 10 hour video, this one is my favorite.

Probably the only one I could literally watch for 10 hours and still not get tired of seeing it.

kupo
kupo
6 years ago

I learned about this in psych 101 (about catharsis being counterproductive) and was completely unsurprised when the guy with the rage and yelling issues I worked with said he liked to do cathartic exercises.

Tanya Nguyen
6 years ago

i did not know fish played with laser lights. must be a catfish.

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

I am very disturbed by the lack of glittery gifs in this thread.

rugbyyogi
rugbyyogi
6 years ago

That’s really interesting. The thing about venting is that we rarely do it into an empty space. When we vent, we’re usually venting ON someone else. A burden shared (involuntarily) isn’t necessarily a burden halved, it’s a burden spread – multiplied. Making someone else feel shit doesn’t make me feel better, even if, occasionally, one might feel a moment of satisfaction, it’s a dirty satisfaction.

But I do wonder if this is about personality type. The study on ‘everyday evil’ http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150130-the-man-who-studies-evil found that certain people enjoyed causing pain and these are our internet trolls. Or if there’s an empathy deficit…

My dickhead spouse was a chronic venter of little irritations, but the effect on me was soul crushing. Irritated by the way I folded a towel, cut a sandwich, loaded a dishwasher, told my son I loved him, etc etc etc etc – he’d let me know. He’d also relieve social anxiety by picking fights with me (just creating anxiety in me). Overall, it was abuse. (I mean there was much worse than that, but even without, it was still abusive).

Major anger venting or even little vexations – there’s usually someone on the receiving end you’ve made feel worse.

This isn’t to say you should allow ‘bad’ behaviour to continue (I’m guilty of that and not speaking up). But are you being constructive or are you using someone else to provide you a moment of short-lived tension relief?

katz
katz
6 years ago

Pufferfish chase laser pointers? DOES ARGENTI KNOW ABOUT THIS?

Paradoxical Intention
6 years ago

rugbyyogi | August 13, 2015 at 12:16 am
[…]

But are you being constructive or are you using someone else to provide you a moment of short-lived tension relief?

I usually do my venting by myself, and that’s because of my anxiety. I don’t like to talk about my feelings to other people, because I feel like I’m burdening them with my problems, and I’m pretty sure that stems from my family going “What do you mean you have problems?! Mine are so much worse than yours!” all the time. I can’t talk to them about anything, really.

And, like I said before, I just cry to myself for a while until I feel better.

Pandapool — The Species that Endangers YOU | August 12, 2015 at 11:34 pm
I am very disturbed by the lack of glittery gifs in this thread.

Is this better?

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