This morning, before I had my first sip of coffee, I had learned the following: (1) my friends’ daughter was sick, (2) another friend, more distant, was pregnant, and (3) that legislators in my state have been embracing all sorts of policies I find harmful. That’s right, within ten minutes of waking up, Facebook had provided me with opportunities to feel sadness, joy, and anger. Contrast that with ten years ago, pre-Facebook, when I would have spent that time… staring out the window, probably. Honestly, what did I do while waiting for my coffee to brew before I had Facebook?
I’m often asked if there is more anger over politics than there used to be. Truthfully, it’s hard to say since there aren’t really any formal means of assessing such a thing.
My best guess, though, is that there probably is not. My best guess is that the anger is more visible to people now so it seems like there’s more. We can easily capture video examples of anger and aggression at campaign rallies and post those videos on the Internet for all to see.
We have all likely seen it play out in our own lives: We are angry about something, then something funny happens, and suddenly, at least for a moment, we don’t feel angry anymore. It’s as though, somehow, the funny thing that happened gave us some much needed perspective on whatever we were angry about.
This morning, I noticed what I thought was an offensive post from a Facebook friend that I badly wanted to respond to. Fortunately, I didn’t have time to respond right then so I made a mental note to get back to it later and went about my morning. I was still sort of fuming about it, though, and thinking through all of the different things I wanted to write in response. I admit some of them were a bit cruel.
The frequency and consequences of online anger are outpacing the research on online anger. We don’t know much about why people take to the internet to vent, but here are three things we do know.
I am sure most of us have been there at some point. We notice a mistake one of our coworkers made, learn about a frustrating decision made by one of our elected officials, or even find out that a family member didn’t do something they promised, and we fire off an angry email to the culprit without really thinking it through.
A few weeks ago, a friend and colleague of mine wrote a really interesting blog piece for Inside Higher Ed on whether the focus on keeping children from swearing is misguided. The comments that followed her piece were the usual mix of insightful, complimentary, and argumentative.
If you were an evil genius and wanted to develop a situation that made people angry, it would look a lot like driving.
Here are four reasons why:
In the past, I’ve written that people become angry in fairly predictable circumstances. Specifically, that people become angry when they perceive something as unpleasant, unfair, blameworthy, etc. That’s prompted some questions, though, as to why some people get angry more intensely or more often than others.