If you’ve ever spent any time on the web, you’ve probably found yourself furious at something you read—so furious that you sit down and shoot off an angry response. Kinda feels good, doesn’t it? But the problem with venting and ranting is that after the initial burst of satisfaction with having gotten things off your chest, over the long haul you’ll end up angrier, more frustrated, and less happy than before you started.
That’s the finding of two studies conducted by University of Wisconsin-Green Bay researcher Ryan Martin. In the first, Martin and his team found that people who leave regular angry comments on websites feel calmer and more relaxed immediately after they post. But after a while, they end up feeling worse than ever. Martin found very much the same thing in his second study: while reading other people’s rants can make you feel good, the long-term effect is negative.
For some people, venting online is caused by a sense of powerlessness and a feeling that they just can’t make a difference, Martin says. “Most of these sites encourage venting as a way of dealing with anger. They think of venting as a healthy adaptive approach, and it’s not.”
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 interact. “The Internet brings out impulsivity problems more than anything else,” he adds. “It’s too easy to respond right away when you are most angry.”
You can read more about this study in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.