Researchers examined how people feel after reading and writing online rants.
Researchers examined how people feel after reading and writing online rants. iStockphoto.com
It's no secret that angry online ranters have become a real scourge of the Internet. The equation goes something like this: Normal person + anonymity + audience = terrible person.
If people hiding behind their angry rants with anonymous identities have ever made you feel bad, know this: Research shows the commenters feel worse.
"Frequent venting leads to subsequent increases in anger rather than decreases," write the researchers behind "Anger on the Internet: The Perceived Value of Rant-Sites."
The researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay write that engaging on rant sites — JustRage.com, for instance — does lead to a cathartic effect, at first. There's the entertainment value of reading online rants, and pleasure from engagement with other online ranters. The forums create a sense of shared experience this way.
But much like bingeing on the 99 cent menu at a fast food place, the two studies show that what initially feels good is actually more likely to make you feel worse in the long run. While the research didn't identify the reasons for the negative shift in mood, it suggests that it's likely rooted in the content of the negative rants.
And not only does this venting lead to more long-term anger, those who frequent rant sites also experience more consequences of that anger — online rage spills into the offline world. The subjects who frequent rant sites average one physical fight per month and more than two verbal fights per month, the researchers found.
"Approximately a third of the participants believed they had an anger problem and almost half of them had been told they have an anger problem," the study reports.
Interestingly, 67 percent of the respondents said they would still post the same angry rants if they lost their anonymity. But researchers are skeptical of the self-reported claim, as existing studies on Internet anonymity show "it is reasonable to assume that rant-site posters would change their behavior if they had to provide their name or email address."
What do you think? Feel free to rage-rant in the comments. As the studies indicate, it will feel cathartic in the short run.
NPR's Diane Jeanty contributed to this post.