Breaking: mean, angry people are all over the place on the internet!
Yes, the internet is resourceful, full of information, a raging 24/7 party, the place where cats live, and above all else, really freaking pissed off about everything.
Gun rights, abortion, the debt ceiling, President Obummer, tipping waiters, circumcision, which way the toilet paper roll should hang… all are ground zero for intelligent and reasoned debate, and a new study has delved into the psychological effects of being exposed to the constant, simmering crockpot of hatred known as the World Wide Web.
Since the internet was invented by Al Gore, it has been used to connect people across the world… an amazing tool that we’ve mainly used to call people in each and every country an uninformed douchecanoe. But experts are backing up anecdotal observations that the internet is a cesspool of hatred and vitriol, and they believe that the psychological effects of internet bickering can’t be any good for our emotional health.
Art Markman, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, says the commentary he has observed on the internet recently is “extraordinarily aggressive,” and explains:
“At the end of it you can’t possibly feel like anybody heard you. Having a strong emotional experience that doesn’t resolve itself in any healthy way can’t be a good thing.”
Markman says that anonymity and distance enable internet meanness, but another factor is that it’s easier to be a jerk in writing than it is in a face-to-face confrontation. This factor is not exclusive to comments on YouTube either, he explains, but is age-old, hence the nastygrams of yore.
But more than anything else, says Markman, the ability to climb atop a soapbox and pontificate about one’s rightness spurs on the behavior, as it doesn’t factor into everyday in-person interactions. He explains:
“When you’re having a conversation in person, who actually gets to deliver a monologue except people in the movies? Even if you get angry, people are talking back and forth and so eventually you have to calm down and listen so you can have a conversation.”
Markman advises upping your intake of actual, carbon-based life-form interaction to counteract the effects of internet flame wars and angry YouTube posters.