Is Internet Anger Good? An AudioStream Public Service Announcement

I think about this often—with all of the anger and outrage expressed on the Internet in comments and on forums, is Internet anger a good thing? Is being rude serving some greater good?

Of course not. There have been a number of studies which show that ranting, even just reading someone else's rants, only leads to more anger and unhappiness. From an article titled "Why ranting online doesn’t help manage anger" on pbs.org:

...The emotional relief, his research showed, is only temporary. People experienced a downward shift in mood after reading rants, and after writing rants, they became more angry, not less. The study was published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking in February 2013.
The obvious question being, why do it?

An article in Scientific America offers an answer:

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.

Sound familiar?

Why am I writing about Internet anger on AudioStream? Because I want to explain why we do not allow abusive comments—they are unproductive and unhealthy—and I want to save myself (and ideally others) from the completely pointless aggravation of spending time reading rants.

If you find yourself reading rants about hi-fi on a blog or forum, I'd recommend walking away from your connected device for a few minutes and thinking about why in the world you want to make yourself angry, unhappy, and potentially unhealthy for no good reason.

I've been trying for some time to make AudioStream a place where people can discuss ideas and opinions without fear of being personally attacked. I want to thank everyone who comments here for making AudioStream the exception to this otherwise disheartening ranting rule.

Epilogue

The two most popular reviews and related subjects in AudioStream's 6-year+ history are Ethernet cables and MQA. They account for hundreds of "extraordinarily aggressive" comments both here and around the web. When I say popular, I'm talking about the web metric used to gauge such things—traffic.

When we hit unexpected traffic on a highway, the cause is often an accident—the worse the accident, the longer the line of traffic. Slowing down to look clearly serves no purpose but lots of people do it anyway.

COMMENTS
blang11's picture

Online rants are a bummer and drag everyone down. I applaud your efforts now and in the past to steer things in a positive direction, but you can only do so much. Ranting is almost inevitable to some degree. While I do enjoy the opportunity to chime in every once in a while, I wouldn't blame you for turning off comments in the future. I know of at least one other similar website that took that step and it has not diminished readership, I'm told.

germay0653's picture

The internet has definitely increased the visibility to anger but what is the root cause of so much anger to begin with?

I'm no psychologist but could it be information overload? When bombarded with so much to process the threshold of tolerance lowers and people will exhibit more anger. Unless we learn to turn off or turn down the flow, the pool will overflow, so to speak, and the result isn't pleasant.

dysonapr's picture

Might the collapse of the "American Dream" be one? IMO a browser-preference to hide / disable all website public comments sections would be wonderful. Yes, I do understand irony.

Doug Adams's picture

I find this comment very debatable "Third, it's easier to be nasty in writing than in speech". I find many people have little trouble letting f bombs fly.

I wouldn't stop comments here. The comments here seem very tame compared to most of the net and real life.

germay0653's picture

Agreed, it is much easier to be nasty in writing or verbally because there is no threat based on proximity.

germay0653's picture

Also, written communication doesn't always convey intonation or body language so the comment or response can be taken out of context.

Anyone who has worked in a corporate environment surely has experienced this with email and IM communication.

bubblewrap's picture

There might be ranting, but there's also polemics - a respected form of arguing a case.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polemic

"A polemic is contentious rhetoric that is intended to support a specific position by aggressive claims and undermining of the opposing position...

Polemics often concern issues in religion [e.g. MQA] or politics. A polemic style of writing was common in Ancient Greece... Since then, famous polemicists have included...George Orwell... Noam Chomsky... Christopher Hitchens".

I am all too happy to read the thoughts of people who make an intelligent, rational case. And if they have to fly in the face of vested interests and be a bit 'polemical' then bring it on! No one will die.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
I'd love to see more polemics and less ranting.
dmhenley's picture

Please and thank you.

deckeda's picture

It's amazing how often we forget to type that, or words that express that. I may have just forgotten it a few minutes ago on the other post.

Passions create passionate posts, often devoid of anything but emotion. No mystery there, in my opinion. (I'm trying, see?)

Supperconductor's picture

This is why I've abandoned Facebook entirely, the stupid rants (at least among my "friends"). I'm glad you guys are calling this out.

rt66indierock's picture

I have a simple suggestion don’t write and talk about Ethernet cables and MQA.

I’m sure there are people who can talk intelligently about Ethernet cables I can’t due an NDA but isn’t it better to leave the MQA discussion to me?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...things that make some people rant, I'd be left with kittens & puppies ;-)

Of course I also would not be doing my job.

To answer your last question - No, that would not be better (did you forget the smiley face ;-)?

Cheers

rt66indierock's picture

A lot of people are happy with what I've written about MQA. Some aren't. The person who should be most upset about what I've written about MQA has my contact information and I have his. That would be Bob Stuart.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
Other than the comments you made a while back on the Stereophile site re. the rain on "Riders On The Storm".
rt66indierock's picture

I started the thread on January 2, 2017. It has over 300,000 views and over 7,000 replies. The original post is still a good read. And fun fact the post was distributed by the Grammy people.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...that you would choose to promote your MQA post, which contains some of the worst behavior / rants, on a post about Internet anger and how it's unproductive and unhealthy.

Again, please stick to this topic as I have no interest in discussing MQA or Ethernet cables here.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...if you are affiliated with the industry, please include your full name and company info as a signature line in every comment you post here.
rt66indierock's picture

Michael, I have no affiliation or derive any revenue from any company in the audio industry. I have a few musicians that are clients currently but derive very little revenue from them. They are not the focus of my practice. I've had NDAs in the computer industry since 1985 and computer companies will ask me to test things. This was more common when I lived in the Pacific Northwest, less common when I lived in DC and unusual in The Valley of the Sun. I still test things now they are just more likely to be in outdoor activities. The NDA involves nothing aimed at an audio market.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
Then your mention of Ethernet cables was rather pointless. Wouldn't you say?
rt66indierock's picture

Some companies say what you can discuss related to their products in their NDAs.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
My point is - if you can't share your knowledge or its relevance to a discussion, there seems to be little point in bringing it up.

But this is veering off topic. This post is not about Ethernet cables or MQA. I'll ask that you stick to the topic at hand.

Cheers.

galacticprince's picture

Thanks a lot for reminding me :)

ktracho's picture

when people are afraid to express their opinions for fear of being attacked, whether physically (e.g., on college campuses) or virtually (e.g., online). We should agree to leave the harassment solely up to totalitarian governments.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...with physical assault and death to name just two forms of 'virtual' harassment ;-)

These were over Ethernet cables (no joke).

enlisted23's picture

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
– Yoda

vmartell's picture

Michael is right - a call for civility is in order. That said, I would also call for caution - needs to be say

1) Someone expressing disagreement is not ranting
2) Someone disagreeing with someone specifically (be it Michael or anyone else) is not insulting that someone
3) Attempting to discredit an idea - specially citing scientific principles - is not ranting
4) Science is not a belief system

That said - is definitely way more fun when things stay civil - discussions go longer and the arguments become more interesting...

Good post, Michael

v

Michael Lavorgna's picture
I agree with all of your points.

If people could stick to the subject at hand, and forgo the personal insults, questioning of motives, and your basic incivility, we wouldn't need to have this conversation.

Unfortunately, in my experience, some people like to use science to bludgeon instead of educate. Usually these same people think they know more than they know.

enlisted23's picture

"Don't lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from."
- Jewel

Many people instinctively fear what they don't understand. Others try to promote fiction and deception as science. Both groups are out of touch with reality. It's the opposite of mindfulness - and common sense.

ogerestein's picture

Thanks for the regretfully necessary post, Michael.

I'm finding that in general, a lot of folks are just simply becoming addicted to outrage. They need their daily dose. We're all familiar with various media outlets who simply peddle outrage, day in day out, without providing any serious discourse or information.

I don't know what the solution is, I just hope that social norms one day catch up to technology.

foxhall's picture

I'm nearing 2 months of a Facebook detox and I don't feel like I've missed anything. I didn't leave social media completely and continue to enjoy Instagram greatly which is not an echo chamber and, for those I follow, virtually free of drama.

I still like specific forums but visiting them with much less frequency.

Jonahsdad's picture

If you wouldn't say it to someone's face, don't post it.

(Which doesn't stop me from writing it, lol.)

Michael Lavorgna's picture
Cheers.
monkeybrsin's picture

"Trolling can be resumed to this:

Take a theosophist (or any other gnostic, for instance,) who pretends to be a “buddhist” (although he is overtly engorged with conceit and contempt (māna) towards the “lower” fringe of humans, that have not been initiated to its (nāmarūpa level) witchcraft thaumaturgy) - This theosophist will be defended by his other theosophist or gnostic friends. And they will call anyone that is not in accord with them, a “troll”. Period.

Now put any and all the other deviant “buddhisms” of this type, under the holding of “Mara Inc.”; and you have a genuine Buddhist regularly called a “troll”, by the so called “buddhists this”, “buddhists that” clique.

A genuine Buddhist can be called such if, first and before all, he has not been initiated in an edifice or place devoted to some special “exalted” purpose - but instead, by the only friend that counts: Buddha himself.

So today, you have all these “symbol minded” people that are calling the genuine Buddhists: “trolls”. With a great deal of hidden sarcasm between themselves. Yet they don’t like sarcasm coming from what they call sarcastically between themselves: “the trolls”.

As I usually say, there are three kinds of people. The many many ones who don’t know - the more and more ones who know and buy it - and the very very few ones who know and don’t. The genuine Buddhists are the latter. And then you have those who, not only are trapped in Mara’s net, but have also gulped profoundly the bait he also threw at them." ( https://discourse.suttacentral.net/t/the-psychology-of-the-internet-trol... )

"Hypocrisy is an expression of ignorance combined with selfishness. It hides behind the complexities and contradictions of life, in order to deceive others and perpetuate its own self-delusion.

Although its stinking contents remains the same, falsehood constantly changes its form. It may express itself in brutal ways, or become the sweetest and most subtle poetry of pseudo-love, depending on temperament and occasion.

The saddest aspect of hypocrisy is probably the fact that before being a hypocrite towards others, an individual must be a hypocrite to himself. The liar and the insincere have lost their sense of reality. Their antahkarana is in trouble. Their connection to their higher soul has been sacrificed for them to deal with feelings of inner fear and compensatory emotions like ambition, vanity, search for power over others, and so on. These are false refuges from the anxieties of separativeness." Carlos Cardoso Aveline ( http://www.carloscardosoaveline.com/the-key-to-uprooting-hypocrisy/ )

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