Sending angry messages could make you angrier, research suggests

The internet allows us to share our frustrations almost immediately, meaning we can often “e-vent” before having a chance to cool off and calm down

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The Independent Online

Pounding out your frustrations on a computer keyboard may not be the emotional release you imagine - according to research that suggests it may even make you angrier.

Those of us inclined to write a fury-filled Facebook post or send an ire-laden email when something angers us or who vent our ire over email are being warned by scientists to switch off our phones and computers after evidence that “e-venting” does nothing to quell the physiological and cognitive aspects of our anger.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, a study led by Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University, and published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggested the practice, often perceived to be a cathartic release, actually makes us angrier and more aggressive.

Dr Bushman asked 600 students to write an essay on abortion, which was then marked negatively by a fellow researcher.

The students were divided into three groups: a “rumination” group who were told to hit a punch bag while thinking of the person who had negatively marked their essay; a “distraction” group who were told to think about becoming physically fit while using the punch bag and a “control group” who did nothing, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The students in the “rumination” group were found to be the “most angry” and “aggressive”, while those in the control group who did nothing to release their frustrations were the “least angry” and “aggressive”.

Dr Bushman explains in the Washington Post that “e-venting” is particularly damaging due to the immediacy offered by online communication.

The internet allows us to share our frustrations instantaneously, meaning we can often “e-vent” before having a chance to cool-off and calm down about a situation, he says.

Venting behind the presumed seclusion of a phone or laptop screen also means that we do not receive immediate feedback from our listener, meaning it is harder to reduce anger levels and know when to stop ranting.

“You can’t see the eye rolling,” Dr Bushman told theWashington Post.

Writing down our frustrations and allowing ourselves to re-read them also gives us the opportunity to stew in our anger, experts explain.

Rather than taking to our keyboards, Dr Bushman suggests we take time to calm down after an upsetting incident or do something positive to combat negative thoughts.

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