Don't get mad… get even angrier: People who leave aggressive messages on websites tend to feel even more frustrated
Anonymity created by screen names reduces the sense of restraint
A healthier approach to anger is to focus on problem solving
11:29 GMT, 25 March 2013
11:30 GMT, 25 March 2013
It’s often been said that getting things off your chest will leave you much calmer – but new studies have shown that getting your point of view across online can make you even angrier.
Research shows that while visitors who regularly leave aggressive or negative comments on websites felt more relaxed after posting, overall they tend to experience more anger and frustration.
Another study found that both reading other people’s rants and writing your own are associated with negative mood shifts.
Rage against the machine: Reading other peoples rants and writing your own are associated with negative mood shifts, says a new report
The research was published online in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.
Online venting is like putting a fire out with petrol, according to lead author Ryan Martin, an associate professor of human development and psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
'The Internet brings out impulsivity problems more than anything else,' he said.
'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 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' reduces an individual's sense of restraint or caution about how to interact.
Websites that function as virtual punching bags reinforce harmful behaviour, 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.'
While there is nothing wrong with being angry, Martin believes that a more positive approach is to get involved to effect change or focus on problem solving
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 help.'
Some people are at risk of thinking the internet is a separate world and find safety in being anonymous. They don’t realise that by sending abuse via websites they are causing distress and pain to the people who are at the receiving end of their online rants.
'This is not a different environment. This is real life,' says Weckerle.