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Ranting on Websites May Just Make You Angrier

Studies link Internet venting to short-term relaxation, long-term frustration

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For the first study, the researchers posted an online survey on four popular rant sites, promising a chance at a $50 gift card for participating. The survey assessed how angry the participants tended to be and how they expressed their anger, as well as consequences they've experienced due to their anger-related behavior.

Participants aged between 14 and 54, including 11 females and 21 males, visited the rant site one to three times a month on average -- but some checked in much more often, even daily. An average visit lasted for between 11 and 15 minutes.

Participants also answered questions about why they visit the site and how they feel after ranting. The majority said they visit sites out of curiosity (about 78 percent). Of the 75 percent of participants who post rants, all said they usually feel calm and relaxed after ranting. Most people said they were looking for validation of how they were feeling from other people's responses to their rants.

The second study tapped students in introductory college psychology courses who earned course credit for participating. The average age was about 19. After completing a screening test designed to gauge their happiness, sadness, anger and fear levels, they viewed a home page of a rant site and were asked to read through the rants for five minutes.

Next, they spent five minutes writing their own anonymous rant, and retook the same screening test they took before going to the rant site.

Some experts expressed caution in interpreting the study results. Andrea Weckerle, president of CiviliNation, a nonprofit organization working to reduce online hostility and adult cyberbullying, said that the small number of participants in both studies means the study should serve only as a talking point to stimulate discussion about the issue of Internet ranting. She added that using only college students in the second study limited how much their reactions could be applied to others.

But Weckerle said the problem is real. "Online hostility is a public health crisis. Lives are destroyed through aggression online," she noted.

While some people feel justified in ruthlessly expressing anger because they think the Internet is a separate world, Weckerle said they are wrong. "This is not a different environment. This is real life."

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