Ever seen a long raving profanity-laden tirade on a website? Well, if you're not new to the internet the answer is surely, yes. Virtually every website that accepts unfiltered comments (including DailyTech) has seen some of these posts. And they aren't just people casually casting about expletives. These people are angry, and ready to vent.
People, in increasing numbers, are headed to the internet to vent their rage, signs indicate. Road rage has been replaced by web rage -- a new form of public antipathy for the twenty-first century. While this is evident in the descent into name-calling and petty aspersions on many a site, it is also evidenced by the rise of sites specially dedicated to users expressing their anger at the world.
Among these are mybiggestcomplaint.com and justrage.com, which contains eloquent musings such as one user's comment, "I don't give a flying f***, so f*** you".
From Benjamin Franklin to Letitia Baldrige, etiquette experts of the past must be turning over in their graves at some of the online activity. The internet frequently descends from a glowing urban paradise to a dark dank alleyway. States Sara Black, a professor of health studies at St. Joseph's University, who studies the rise of online bullying, "The Internet can be a great tool. Like any tool, it can also be misused."
One key incentive that drives users to vent online is the anonymity the internet provides. Describes Lesley Withers, a professor of communication at Central Michigan University, "In the [pre-Internet era], you had to take ownership [of your remarks]. Now there's a perception of anonymity. People think what they say won't have repercussions, and they don't think they have to soften their comments."
University of Texas psychology professor Art Markman says the removal of body language and facial expressions from communication leads to a descent into the darker side of human emotion. He states, "It's hard to be aggressive when you're face to face. A lot of times, real anger is an attempt to get control over a situation where the person doesn't usually have it."
Indeed people attempt to lash out at blog posts they disagree with or even their fellow commenters’ opinions, though they have little hope of changing the posting. Social observers liken these power games to the ones played by children and teens at schools. Cheryl Dellasega, a Penn State women's studies professor describes how children and adults alike are turning the online community into a new site of bullying.
She proclaims, "Girls who are getting teased come home and let their [aggressors] have it by putting something on their blog and starting a rumor campaign. [And the rumors,] they go out to a much bigger group, a worldwide group. The impact is devastating, and it's as easy as clicking a button. Kids don't realize that one post can destroy somebody's life forever."
Indeed lives have been lost to online bullying, such as Megan Meier, who committed suicide after a neighborhood bully invented a fake male persona and then used it to torment her, finally convincing her to kill herself.
In August, The New York Times ran a story on trolling. According to the magazine, trolls post insulting comment for "lulz". States one ex-troll in the piece, "Lulz is watching someone lose their mind at their computer 2,000 miles away while you chat with friends and laugh."
Even respectable adults are losing their composure on the internet. A Japanese woman murdered her husband's online avatar after he divorced her. A South Korean actress committed suicide over online rumors.
Is there an end in sight for online rage? Well certainly not until the latest election's results are in and long since overflowing with discussion (and tirades). However, for the long run most experts agree there's relatively little that can be done to quash online anger, other than better parenting, and an emphasis on polite behavior online as children develop.
The problem is not new, explains psychiatrist Dr. Terry Eagan, medical director of the Moonview Sanctuary in Santa Monica, California. He states, "Some people are just bitter and angry. Sometimes, they're against everyone, other times against a specific group. That person can get really stimulated and can say all sorts of horrible things. But I don't think it's not like they didn't exist before. I tell patients that I'd rather know everything about people; information is powerful. When the climate of the world is more fear-based, it permeates everything."