FRIDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- It's so tempting. You read
something on a website about a hot-button issue that makes you mad
and you've got to respond. Before you know it, you're verbally
sparring with a stranger. But you may want to think twice before
jumping into the fray.
While you might like getting your point of view off your chest,
over the long term your rants may be making you less happy and more
angry, suggest two new studies by a single research team.
The first study showed that while visitors to common "rant"
websites reported feeling more relaxed immediately after posting a
comment, overall they tend to experience more anger in general and
can express their frustration in maladaptive ways.
The second study found that both reading other people's rants
and writing your own are associated with negative mood shifts. The
research was published online in the journal
Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.
"The Internet brings out impulsivity problems more than anything else," said lead author Ryan Martin, an associate professor of human development and psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. "It's too easy to respond right away when you are most angry."
Martin said while the study focused solely on rant websites that
are devoted to back-and-forth virtual screaming, the research has
implications for Facebook and Twitter, and even news sites and
blogs. He said the combination of being anonymous by using a screen
name and having what he calls "social distance" reduce an
individual's sense of restraint or caution about how to
Websites that function as virtual punching bags reinforce
harmful behavior, Martin said. "Most of these sites encourage
venting as a way of dealing with anger," he said. "They think of
venting as a healthy adaptive approach, and it's not."
For some people, venting online is caused by a sense of
powerlessness and a feeling that they just can't make a difference,
Martin said. A third study he did related to the published research
looked at the content of rant sites and found that "people are
angry at big groups of people: Democrats, Republicans, illegal
immigrants," he said. "People want to feel they're doing something
and think just expressing their feelings to the world will
Martin said venting has been described as putting a fire out
with gasoline. But it's not actually the anger that's detrimental,
according to the researchers. "There is nothing wrong with being
angry and there are lots of things to be angry about, and that is
healthy," said Martin. But he added that a healthier and more
effective approach is to get involved and do something to effect
the kind of change you want, or focus on problem solving.
For the first study, the researchers posted an online survey on
four popular rant sites, promising a chance at a $50 gift card for
participating. The survey assessed how angry the participants
tended to be and how they expressed their anger, as well as
consequences they've experienced due to their anger-related
Participants aged between 14 and 54, including 11 females and 21
males, visited the rant site one to three times a month on average
-- but some checked in much more often, even daily. An average
visit lasted for between 11 and 15 minutes.
Participants also answered questions about why they visit the
site and how they feel after ranting. The majority said they visit
sites out of curiosity (about 78 percent). Of the 75 percent of
participants who post rants, all said they usually feel calm and
relaxed after ranting. Most people said they were looking for
validation of how they were feeling from other people's responses
to their rants.
The second study tapped students in introductory college
psychology courses who earned course credit for participating. The
average age was about 19. After completing a screening test
designed to gauge their happiness, sadness, anger and fear levels,
they viewed a home page of a rant site and were asked to read
through the rants for five minutes.
Next, they spent five minutes writing their own anonymous rant,
and retook the same screening test they took before going to the
Some experts expressed caution in interpreting the study
results. Andrea Weckerle, president of CiviliNation, a nonprofit
organization working to reduce online hostility and adult
cyberbullying, said that the small number of participants in both
studies means the study should serve only as a talking point to
stimulate discussion about the issue of Internet ranting. She added
that using only college students in the second study limited how
much their reactions could be applied to others.
But Weckerle said the problem is real. "Online hostility is a
public health crisis. Lives are destroyed through aggression
online," she noted.
While some people feel justified in ruthlessly expressing anger
because they think the Internet is a separate world, Weckerle said
they are wrong. "This is not a different environment. This is real
Learn more about civility on the Internet from
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