Raging Online Can Make You Even Angrier

Forget catharsis—'e-venting' may just fuel the fire, studies suggest
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 11, 2015 1:42 PM CDT
Raging Online Can Make You Even Angrier
Take it easy, dude.   (Shutterstock)

Nothing like a good online vent to blow off a little steam, right? As Melissa Dahl writes for New York, a venting episode on Gchat is "immediate, it's intimate, and there's just something so satisfying about the physical sensation of typing very, very hard, taking out my annoyance onto my poor keyboard." But some researchers say this cathartic release could do more harm than good, the Wall Street Journal notes. Although "e-venting" via email, text, chat, or social media seems like the perfect antidote to a rotten day, studies have shown that people may actually become angrier after they post their online manifesto—and those who do so anonymously may become the most enraged of all. "Just because something makes you feel better doesn't mean it's healthy," Brad Bushman, a psych and communications professor at Ohio State University, tells the Journal.

A 2002 study Bushman published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggested just that: He had 600 college students in three groups write an essay on abortion, which was subsequently criticized by another "participant" (really the researchers). Students in the first group were told to hit a punching bag while thinking of their critic, students in the second group were told to hit the bag while thinking about becoming fit, and a third control group simply sat quietly for two minutes. The angriest and most aggressive? Those in the first group, whose venting "did not lead to a more positive mood," the study notes (the second "fit" group wasn't far behind in aggression). But what makes e-venting especially risky? Per the Journal, we vent before we settle down, our posts have the potential to be shared (and ruminated over), and we don't get immediate feedback to maybe calm down. "You can't see the eye rolling," Bushman says. (Someone talk to Charlie Sheen about this.)

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