SOS: Save Our Social Media

Social media might be your go-to avenue for venting, but bear in mind that online fuming has its consequences, says Shraddha Shirodkar

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When screaming into a pillow, writing a letter, counting in your head or squeezing a squeeze ball doesn’t cut it, you find other avenues to vent. Though the consequences of bottling up your anger could be worse, do remember that venting on social media could turn into a risky affair.

Ask Paul Chambers, a young man who was arrested a few years ago for tweeting out of frustration that he would blow up the Robin Hood Airport in UK that had shut down due to heavy snow, thereby delaying his travel plans.

Chambers was later released on bail, but not without consequences. He’s banned from entering the airport and the police confiscated his iPhone, laptop and home computer for added measure. “I would never have thought, in a thousand years, that any of this would happen because of a Twitter post,” he said. 

A 2013 study conducted by researchers at China’s Beihang University investigated how messages containing different emotions spread on social networks. “Our results show that anger is more influential than other emotions like joy, which indicates that angry tweets can spread quickly and broadly in the network,” the study noted.

Modern-day journal

Fuming online is a global phenomenon and a potent one at that. Social media offers spontaneity, wide reach and a mostly supportive audience. “It’s much better to say what you feel than letting it simmer inside,” says 26-year-old graphic designer Aditi Biswas. “It’s a modern way of writing a journal.” 

Whereas 17-year-old Ammar Shaikh’s views social media as a modern policing tool. “You see so many online shoppers vent about poor customer service or fake products, on social media, and companies take such issues seriously to save their reputation,” he points out. 

President of Nature Forever Society, Mohammed Dilawar, who has observed online activism as another form of venting thinks it’s pointless. He says, “One feels great on getting a sizable number of ‘likes’ for their post. But venting online about social or environmental evils is meaningless if there’s no constructive work happening on ground.”

The flipside

But when does online fuming really go wrong? “When you’re looking for solidarity on social issues, you receive the support of the community at large. But when it’s about seeking attention or maligning another person with derogatory or nasty language, it may lead to problems – as anything you write or share on social media stays there forever,” says clinical psychologist Sonali Gupta. 

“Even if you have a change of heart later, once your anger subsides, and then subsequently delete that post, someone somewhere may have taken a screenshot of it. So, you see, it never really disappears.” The consequences may also be negative in a completely different context. 

“If potential employers are doing a background check on you and they come across a controversial post shared by you in the recent past, it may affect your chances of being employed.”

So is there a middle ground? “Wait for 15 minutes before you feel the urge to vent online. Chances are that your anger will subside. If you have to express your feelings, write a private blog post or call someone up,” Gupta suggests.

 Dilawar shares a piece of advice that he, ironically, read on social media: “Don’t ‘face’book your problems – ‘face’ them”.

Modern-day wisdom to beat modern-day complications, we think. 

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