Anonymous and Angry: Why Internet Rage is Bad for Everyone

If you ever doubt the empirical fact of total depravity, please, spend a few hours scouring our comment section—or any comment section. Your belief in humanity will faulter. Your belief in total depravity will be reconfirmed. It turns out internet rage is actually bad for everyone, though, both for the commenter and the one reading and receiving the comment.

For a long time, the worst thing you could be from a psychological standpoint was “repressed.” Freud, picking up from Aristotle and other so-called sages, thought that “bad” feelings in you were like a poison that needed to be “vented.” This venting or purging was considered healthy. Aristotle, and Freud too, called it “catharsis.”

Well, as you might expect, it turns out that the idea of catharsis is total horse manure. In fact, recent studies (like this one) indicate that cathartic venting makes you more likely to have stronger bad feelings in the future, and more likely to act on them. (A great article on catharsis, by David McRaney, can be found here on his blog.) It turns out that “cooling off,” “calming down,” and “clearing your head” are much more healthy responses to anger and frustration. They are not as immediately gratifying, of course. But, in the long-term, they produce a healthier emotional and psychological environment.

Which is why internet rage, especially the anonymous kind, is so damaging. It seems like the perfect place and time to vent. No one knows it’s you. You aren’t actually hurting someone, after all, right? Sticks and stones and all that stuff…

Well, but you are hurting people. Yourself, for one. Studies, common sense, biblical religion, and your mom tell you that anger just leads to more anger. The person who gives in to anger finds it more and more difficult not to give in.

And eventually your temper can ruin your life, like a trap just waiting to be set off. You mouth off to your boss or have a terrible attitude with him—and get fired. This makes you angry. So you beat your wife—and she leaves. This makes you even more angry. So you go to the bar to lick your wounds, and someone bumps into you. The time bomb goes off again. You get into a fight. You get arrested for assault.

Maybe your whole life then becomes a cycle of violence. You think you’re the victim, because you have no control over how you feel. It must be everyone else’s fault. It’s not you. Or maybe you learn to control your violence and live a life of quiet and pathetic frustration. Either way, this is not a pleasant or healthy way to live. For your own sake, and for the sake of others—learn to control your spirit. Learn to defuse internet rage. Don’t feed it.

So, my loyal readers. I know my opinions and the things I dredge up from the cesspools of world news can really get under your skin. But, for at least your own sake, don’t vent. Internet rage doesn’t help anything. It doesn’t solve the problem. And it just makes everyone miserable in the process.