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