September 19, 2013
Internet Ranting Is Unhealthy
Internet ranting is unhealthy. That is the conclusion of a group of social scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Led by Ryan C. Martin, PhD, the group conducted a survey of people who posted on four popular rant sites. They found that the practice of reading and writing online rants are “likely unhealthy practices,” and those who visit them often are “angrier and have more maladaptive expressions styles than others.” In addition, “reading and writing online rants are associated with negative shifts of mood for the vast majority of people.
They gave as an example of a rant site, justrage.com, which calls itself ‘The Internet Anger Sponge.’ I went to the site and found it to be really random and to consist mostly of expletives. (To be fair, I didn’t spend much time at the site.)
Apparently, some people find these sites entertaining. Some people claim to find them cathartic. I find them neither. I would be one of those who become sadder when visiting such a site.
Of course, I can easily avoid a site whose explicit purpose is to rant. What bothers me (and here I start my own rant) is that most of the time you find the same thing (minus some of the profanity) reading the comments about many serious topics. I look at comments to find thoughtful discussion of a subject I found interesting, but thoughtful discussion is just about the last thing I find. Oh, I might find one or two thoughtful comments, but then it goes downhill fast.
One thing you will find is the spelling/punctuation police. They usually contend that, since you didn’t spell a word correctly, what you have said must have no worth. While I agree that your arguments are usually more convincing if you use correct grammar, to conclude that a spelling misstep negates a person’s argument seems harsh.
The thought process of some commenters is, “You don’t agree with me, so you are an idiot.” To which the response is, “No, I’m not, you are an idiot.” Then they create several posts exchanging insults. Others chime in on one side or the other.
The third type of comment is the most irritating. This is the type where the commenter goes completely off topic and tries to make the discussion about something that it isn’t. The topic might be global warming, and someone chimes in with “We wouldn’t have that problem if everyone had a gun.” Then, off the discussion goes, discussing the pros and cons of gun control, and calling each other idiots again.
This is really disheartening. I’ve even had to call a halt to people who start trading insults on my own Facebook page. I have to tell them that if they want to continue in that vein, they need to friend each other and do it on their own pages, not mine.
I wish it were possible to find a whole series of thoughtful comments on thoughtful writing, but that seems to be a vain hope.
I found a commentary by Tania Lombrozo that discusses similar feelings about the lack of civilized conversation on the web. Her article, Science Vs. Religion: A Heated Debate Fueled By Disrespect, describes her experience after writing about “some ideas from psychology and cognitive science concerning and whether scientific beliefs can provide some of the same psychological benefits typically ascribed to religion.” Needless to say, she was attacked from all sides.
She makes a case for what she calls, “charitable ground.” Not that we should all meet in the middle and agree, but that we should be able to listen to others with a more charitable attitude. She describes it as “some shared territory in which we recognize that other people’s religious and scientific commitments can be as deeply felt and deeply reasoned as our own, and that there’s value in understanding why others believe what they do.”
She and I come from completely different points of view on some issues, but I feel that we could talk respectfully to each other. I would be very happy if that ability were more widespread.
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