Last time I wrote about the importance of building trust and catering to your online social niches as they apply to admiration and loathing. The important things the remember is that you cannot appeal to everyone, and that spreading yourself too thin will only serve to alienate those who admire you the most. The next two emotions on the wheel appeal to the passionate and thrill-seeking nature of social sharing. In today’s topic, we continue our series of examining trends in social sharing through the lens of Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions and tackle Rage and Terror.
Rage is the culmination of annoyance and anger. When sparked, it can often lead to violent bursts of wrath, leaving a chaotic trail of destruction in its furious wake. At its most intense levels, rage has been known to inflict damage on others – both physically and psychologically. When a person experiences a “fit of rage” he or she often acts solely out of aggression, ignoring all rationale and composure.
Of course, rage is the most extreme iteration, stemming from the milder forms of anger. These can take many forms. From snarky, passive-aggressive sarcasm to bullying and name-calling, there are many shades to aggression.
Why is the Internet so Angry?
Even if you’re just a casual Web user, chances are you’ve witnessed your share of “internet rage”. I’m certainly no exception. Not a day goes by where I don’t see someone arguing over this week’s political/social scandals on Facebook or witnessed some form of horrible ignorance spewed out into the comments section of a blog post or YouTube video. The question is why? Why do people so often spread their hateful rage and vitriol across the spectrum of social media platforms? What is it about the Internet and social sharing trends that get people riled up and ready to shout their grievances to the world like some sort of next generation Howard Beale?
The Anonymity Factor
There are many psychological and social things to consider when examining anger expressed online. The first and biggest factor is the conceived notion of anonymity, and the lack of accountability. Comment sections on blogs and other community-based sites often require very little form of identification or moderation of their content. Essentially this allows anyone, anywhere to post anything they please without any form of liability. Because there is often no filter, many people can be as rude or hateful as they like with no real punishment or consequence. It’s the perfect breeding ground for bullies, racists, cynics and haters alike.
In addition to anonymity, aggressors are often hundreds, if not thousands of miles away from each other. Things like body language, subtext, tone of voice and the forced immediate reactions that you get via face-to-face encounters are lost and replaced with carefully thought-out quips and hyperboles. According to The Scientific American, it’s easier for a person to be mean and nasty in writing than in speech, which only serves to escalate the situation.
The Sharebait Factor
The social trend of linkbait or sharebait articles and other content is often designed to ruffle your feathers. It’s no secret that controversy sells, and many bloggers write their copy or headlines with social shares in mind. There is nothing wrong with sparking a heated debate; the problem is that so many of these types of content are often meant to be inherently divisive. Facebook macros that convey religious, political or social animosity are bound to lead to some sort of backlash. A good rule of thumb is to always be aware of who your friends are and be ready to back up your arguments with some sort of intelligent thought before sharing something controversial.
Just like rage is the product of annoyance and anger, terror stems from both the emotions of apprehension and fear. It is the intense feeling of being afraid and the accompanying anxieties that come with it. Whether it’s public speaking, death, spiders, the dentist, heights, etc. everyone is afraid of something. It is one of the natural vulnerabilities that make us human.
There is an odd relationship between social media and fear. Almost all of the major platforms are purposely designed to be open, friendly environments that upon first glance do not seem threatening. Why should you fear Facebook? All of your friends are there and having a blast. Twitter is wonderful, just look at that adorable bird! It’s when you dig deeper into the psychological tolls of social media that apprehension starts to kick in.
All of the social fears and anxieties that come with sociological interactions carry over into social media. According to a survey conducted at Napier University, it was revealed that Facebook actually correlates with increased stress and anxiety. Participants responded that they felt guilt and other neuroses when they weren’t logged in and checking in on their statuses.
Fear Can Be Fun
If there’s anything that we can learn from the hundreds of horror films, books, and TV shows that are produced every year, it’s that people love to be scared. The Internet is no different. Every day people are sharing weird images, creepy stories and videos that are designed to give you thrills and chills. Communities like r/NoSleep and other creepypastas are known for spreading scary myths, legends and stories not unlike the ones you used to hear sitting around the campfire. One of the Internet’s favorite scary stories is about the Slenderman – a tall, faceless humanoid creature who wears a suit and a tie and is known for stalking children and making its victims go insane. The meme has inspired parodies, a YouTube series, a computer game, and even a movie in the works.