There are plenty of justifiable reasons for people to be angry these days, and sometimes that anger can be productive as well, but some people just seem to give out about everything – and it’s hurting them more than it’s hurting anyone else.
Negativity is practically embedded in the very html of social media. Not a day goes by when you don’t read furious and belligerent comments under an article or a photograph on a local village page. It has become so commonplace now that you no longer ask yourself “why did they take the time out of their day to write that?”
The social media rage train doesn’t stop for anyone, and if there’s nothing to be angry about or nobody to randomly insult or demean on a particular day – the perpetually vengeful will make up any old reason to squeeze their digital stress ball.
And while the odd few ‘likes’ might fuel the keyboard warrior temporarily, validating their mean-spirited behaviour, these online outbursts are actually doing them far more harm than they think.
Psychology Today have tackled the subject many times and have found that, unlike road rage, for instance, the rage that one experiences commonly on the internet actually follows them long after they’ve logged-off.
Regular toxic commentary can deter people from having civil conversations. It can cause people to become overly-attached to ‘likes’ and can lead to validation-seeking behaviour. It can even contribute to higher cotrisol (the stress hormone) levels that stay with you throughout the day.
Arguing with others on the internet has shown to increase stress levels in those who regularly participate in “flame wars” (as we used to call them), not simply because of the argument itself, but due to the incredibly public nature of them. Participants are highly aware that their comments could be read by any amount of people and so there is an element of performance in their responses, either encouraging people to agree with them or doubling-down on particularly ludicrous statements.
And because we very often use our smart phones to access the internet, these highly performative and highly public arguments are only ever a swipe away. It may not be a chip on your shoulder, but it’s definitely in your pocket, and once you’ve started – it’s very difficult to stop.
Here are some ways to tackle the all-too-common issue of “web rage”:
1. Reach out to a loved one.
If someone you know is constantly engaged in aggressive or mean-spirited behaviour online, a simple tap on the shoulder might be just the thing to turn them around. Sometimes people need to be made aware of themselves before they realise just how toxic their behaviour has become.
2. Ask yourself “why?”
Before you post the comment, why not ask yourself “what am I trying to achieve with this?”. Are you trying to make a point, or are you simply trying to vent about a subject? Is your intention to change someone’s mind or do you want to publicly humiliate them? Understanding your own motivations can be the first step to a more civil discussion on a potentially touchy subject. And if you are responding to a comment that you didn’t like, you can either ignore it or approach it with said civility. As the saying goes “never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by ignorance.”
There is always a temptation to jump right on into a conversation without knowing the full facts, but this is how most online arguments begin. Give yourself some time before you leave your comment, think about the content you are responding to and ask yourself if your response is even necessary.
4. Just…don’t do it.
It might sound obvious, but this is the best way to remove yourself from a toxic online environment and save yourself a lot of stress in your real life environment as well. If you don’t like something you see or read, sometimes the best thing to do is to ignore it. And if you feel it is violating the rules, then report it first.
There will be times when speaking up against something is the brave thing to do, but there are many times as well where you can rise above something just by scrolling past it.