For more information, see Youth Violence: Normal Rebellion, Mental Illness, or Both?
On the one hand, talking with people about your anger can be useful and positive. It can give you some perspective, help you process what you are feeling and better understand your emotions, and even offer an avenue to receive some constructive criticism regarding how you handled a situation.
That said, that’s only true if you are looking for perspective, understanding, and constructive criticism. Most people aren’t. Most people are just looking for another person to agree with them that they should be angry. That’s ok every now and then but too much of it isn’t good for you. If you want to rant, go for it. But make sure you do some self-reflecting at the same time.
Last week, I did an interview with Christopher Gabriel on WDAY about online anger (you can hear it here). He asked me, specifically, about some angry tweets that he labeled “drive-by nasties.” These are tweets or Facebook posts where the author doesn’t attempt to have a dialogue or any sort of civil discourse but, rather, just says something cruel or hurtful and disappears.
I took a look today and found a couple of examples (I didn’t have to look very hard).
A tweet about the economy from President Obama was met with this.
A Guardian Facebook post about Hillary Clinton was met with this (note how many times it was “liked” as well).
A Huffington Post Facebook post about Washington state’s new marijuana law that says that you can’t sell anything that may appeal strongly to kids was met with this.
And even a Huffington Post Facebook post with cute pictures of dogs and babies was met with this.
I’ve addressed online anger plenty here but these are particularly interesting because the authors don’t seem to want to have a discussion. In many cases, people responded to these posts but the authors didn’t respond back. It’s not that they were trying to start a fight, necessarily. It’s more that they just want to unload without having to deal with the consequences.
So what are these drive-bys all about?
It seems like there are a couple of thing going on. Obviously, we have people who are angry, judgmental, and disproving. They are upset about something and they want to let the world know about it. That’s actually a lot of people, though, and most of us don’t take to Twitter or Facebook to tell people off and then run away from the conflict that follows. What really stands out here is that they don’t want to be challenged in response. They want to be heard but they don’t want to listen.
I can’t help but wonder if at the root of these is a lack of confidence. They have strong beliefs but don’t really feel comfortable in defending those beliefs. People who feel secure in their positions are willing to stick around and discuss them. It’s likely insecurity that drives people away from the post-comment argument.
It’s unfortunate because social networking provides such great potential to have real conversations about complex issues. It could be (and is) used to bring smart people together from across the globe to discuss and solve problems. We can’t do that, though, if people continue to use it as dumping ground for their disapproval and frustration.
On July 15th, I spoke with Christopher Gabriel of WDAY about internet anger.
Does it ever feel like there’s a little too much anger on Twitter. If so, you’re not just too sensitive. In fact, you may just be perceptive, as almost half of twitter users say they tweet “often” as a way of dealing with their anger and a lot of them hope the people they’re mad at will see it.