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Why Is Everyone on the Internet So Angry?
Posted: 25 July 2012 02:00 PM   [ Ignore ]
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With a presidential campaign, health care and the gun control debate in the news these days, one can’t help getting sucked into the flame wars that are Internet comment threads. But psychologists say this addictive form of vitriolic back and forth should be avoided — or simply censored by online media outlets — because it actually damages society and mental health.

These days, online comments “are extraordinarily aggressive, without resolving anything,” said Art Markman, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. “At the end of it you can’t possibly feel like anybody heard you. Having a strong emotional experience that doesn’t resolve itself in any healthy way can’t be a good thing.”

If it’s so unsatisfying and unhealthy, why do we do it?

A perfect storm of factors come together to engender the rudeness and aggression seen in the comments’ sections of Web pages, Markman said. First, commenters are often virtually anonymous, and thus, unaccountable for their rudeness. Second, they are at a distance from the target of their anger — be it the article they’re commenting on or another comment on that article — and people tend to antagonize distant abstractions more easily than living, breathing interlocutors. Third, it’s easier to be nasty in writing than in speech, hence the now somewhat outmoded practice of leaving angry notes (back when people used paper), Markman said. [Infographic: A Typical Day on the Internet]

And because comment-section discourses don’t happen in real time, commenters can write lengthy monologues, which tend to entrench them in their extreme viewpoint. “When you’re having a conversation in person, who actually gets to deliver a monologue except people in the movies? Even if you get angry, people are talking back and forth and so eventually you have to calm down and listen so you can have a conversation,” Markman told Life’s Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience.

Chiming in on comment threads may even give one a feeling of accomplishment, albeit a false one. “There is so much going on in our lives that it is hard to find time to get out and physically help a cause, which makes ‘armchair activism’ an enticing [proposition],” a blogger at Daily Kos opined in a July 23 article.

And finally, Edward Wasserman, Knight Professor in Journalism Ethics at Washington and Lee University, noted another cause of the vitriol: bad examples set by the media. “Unfortunately, mainstream media have made a fortune teaching people the wrong ways to talk to each other, offering up Jerry Springer, Crossfire, Bill O’Reilly. People understandably conclude rage is the political vernacular, that this is how public ideas are talked about,” Wasserman wrote in an article on his university’s website. “It isn’t.”

Communication, the scholars say, is really about taking someone else’s perspective, understanding it, and responding. “Tone of voice and gesture can have a large influence on your ability to understand what someone is saying,” Markman said. “The further away from face-to-face, real-time dialogue you get, the harder it is to communicate.”

In his opinion, media outlets should cut down on the anger and hatred that have become the norm in reader exchanges. “It’s valuable to allow all sides of an argument to be heard. But it’s not valuable for there to be personal attacks, or to have messages with an extremely angry tone. Even someone who is making a legitimate point but with an angry tone is hurting the nature of the argument, because they are promoting people to respond in kind,” he said. “If on a website comments are left up that are making personal attacks in the nastiest way, you’re sending the message that this is acceptable human behavior.” [Niceness Is in Your DNA, Scientists Find]

For their part, people should seek out actual human beings to converse with, Markman said — and we should make a point of including a few people in our social circles who think differently from us. “You’ll develop a healthy respect for people whose opinions differ from your own,” he said.

Working out solutions to the kinds of hard problems that tend to garner the most comments online requires lengthy discussion and compromise. “The back-and-forth negotiation that goes on in having a conversation with someone you don’t agree with is a skill,” Markman said. And this skill is languishing, both among members of the public and our leaders.

The &%$*!!!1!! Source

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Posted: 25 July 2012 04:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Second to last paragraph, about getting friends who think differently. SO true.

One of my best friends in high school taught me that you don’t have to agree with someone to be their friend. Sure, we’d have arguments, but the arguments became less and less about anger, and more about exploring the positions held.

Currently, another of my friends is a right-wing catholic gun nut. We KNOW we’re not gonna agree on certain positions, so those don’t come up in conversation.

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Posted: 27 July 2012 02:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I like the bit about finding actual people to talk to!  “But all my friends live in my computer!”  Sadly, that’s pretty accurate in my case.  Any time I have to fill out applications requiring friends who’ve known me for more than a year or so, I’ve only really got one friend to put on there (I’m pretty sure they don’t want references from here of people I’ve never met in person).  I have a few acquaintances, but not many people that would know me well enough to give a job reference.  And as far as differing opinions, yep, I’d have to agree with that, too.  What good does it do to only surround yourself with people who think exactly the same way as you?  I’d be willing to bet that I don’t share the same opinions with most of the folks here at the MoH, but I still consider pretty much everyone here to be a friend.  smile

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Posted: 31 July 2012 11:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I have been asking myself this question for a long time. After reading a news story and editorial I am always anxious to read what other readers say. More times than not the comments are off subject and angry. Some threaders who disagree with others immediately go into a rage, screaming, using all caps and foul language, making sure threaders understand that he or she is angry. I find myself talking to my computer, asking the unseen threader, “Why are you angry?” For me, all caps and language are indicators of anger. That’s my personal opinion.

Besides the screaming anger, I get agitated when there is no flow to comments, many of which are filled with misspellings, no punctuation and poor grammar. Whether commenting under a pseudonym or real name (which I prefer to do), there are certain rules of etiquette that should be followed. No one understands what a threader is saying unless the comment is clear and precise.

Another thing that irritates me is the foul language, especially that little four letter one that ends in “k”. Someone may write a thread that I agree with, but when the individual lapses into a cursing rant, they loose my interest. I am no puritan. I can curse with the best of them, however, I think threaders can disagree without being disagreeable. For this reason I do not participate in a back and forth with a threader who insists that my opinion or response to a story is wrong; his or hers is right. It is easy to tell who is bucking for a fight, the reason I avoid them. When someone corrects a date or name I quoted incorrectly, I write to the threader: “I stand corrected.” It doesn’t make me angry.

I thoroughly enjoyed this article on Internet anger. It answered a lot of questions for me.  But I still just wonder when screaming pundits on TV, and the printed media will take responsibility for encouraging angry threads from readers of their columns and news stories.

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Posted: 03 August 2012 07:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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.....Communication, the scholars say, is really about taking someone else’s perspective, understanding it, and responding.

In other words, it helps if we can learn to be profilers and get ‘into’ the mind of those who disagree so we can understand their perspective of the same scene we, too, are looking upon. 

Many of us are like Crafty; most of our real friends (and they are very real, close and dear) are those we’ve never met in person.  We can’t read body language from a computer screen’s written verbiage, yet over time we get a more in-depth glimpse into the most important characteristics of these friends that can be as colorful or even brighter than a verbal and direct chat.  Inflection can be ascertained even from those whose written dialog is completely unintelligible.  (We now know quite a lot about that personality who knows not punctuation, who rages in caps, or who is so long-winded that a storm has hailed upon us). 

So, after having said all of this, I think a lot of anger comes from standing in a very large group, feeling as if no one really sees them, or reads their cause, or takes their opinion as credible.  It’s much easier to agree to disagree when the group is more intimate.

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Posted: 03 August 2012 09:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Crafty Dragon - 27 July 2012 02:40 AM

I like the bit about finding actual people to talk to!  “But all my friends live in my computer!”  Sadly, that’s pretty accurate in my case.  Any time I have to fill out applications requiring friends who’ve known me for more than a year or so, I’ve only really got one friend to put on there (I’m pretty sure they don’t want references from here of people I’ve never met in person).  I have a few acquaintances, but not many people that would know me well enough to give a job reference.  And as far as differing opinions, yep, I’d have to agree with that, too.  What good does it do to only surround yourself with people who think exactly the same way as you?  I’d be willing to bet that I don’t share the same opinions with most of the folks here at the MoH, but I still consider pretty much everyone here to be a friend.  smile

Yup! There’s things we agree on as well as things we don’t, but we can usually have a good discussion about everything. smile

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