An outburst on social media might feel good initially, but experts say these rants have long-term health consequences for writer and reader alike.
Whether it’s bad customer service or an opposing political view, it seems like everyone’s ranting nowadays.
And they’re not just contributing constructive thoughts in online product or service reviews.
Social media is inundated with rants and raves about everything.
“People feel much freer to sound off online,” Shoshana Bennett, PhD, a California-based psychotherapist told Healthline. “It’s much easier to rant without an audience looking at you in person. It’s more comfortable to unload, as you’re hidden behind a screen.”
Blowing off steam online may feel cathartic for the author in the short term.
However, experts say ranting can produce long-term health consequences for both the ranter and the reader.
Bennett believes that online outbursts are never good. She said her clients report getting more upset after ranting themselves or reading someone else’s outburst.
“As a psychologist, I know how emotionally destructive it can be,” Bennett said. “I’ll bet that if measured, cortisol blood levels would be found high in the ranter. And as we are already aware, high cortisol on a regular basis can cause all kinds of physical health issues.”
Another issue with online tirades is that they live online forever.
So if you change your mind, it can be a source of more angst, Bennett said.
Ranting can be good for our health when we’re talking to a friend in person or on the phone. It can be therapeutic to sound off, Bennett said.
“The difference is that in real time with a support person who is present, listening, and giving you feedback when desired, there can be more of a rational conversation and working through of feelings. Instead of just negatively spouting off, it can turn into something positive,” she said.
A recent report from the American Psychological Association (APA) found that 63 percent of Americans are stressed out when thinking about the future of our nation.
As a result, many are taking to social media to unload about all of it.
“We’re seeing significant stress transcending party lines,” Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, APA’s chief executive officer, said in a press release. “The uncertainty and unpredictability tied to the future of our nation is affecting the health and well-being of many Americans in a way that feels unique to this period in recent history.”
Adults say they want to stay informed. But their perceptions of the media are a source of stress, according to the report.
“With 24-hour news networks and conversations with friends, family and other connections on social media, it’s hard to avoid the constant stream of stress around issues of national concern,” said Evans. “These can range from mild, thought-provoking discussions to outright, intense bickering, and over the long term, conflict like this may have an impact on health.”
Ryan Martin, PhD, a professor in psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, believes President Trump’s online rants may make people more likely to take to social media to share their reactions.
So, the ranting cycle just continues.
Another consideration if you’re about to unload online, especially about a political issue: It may leave the nation more susceptible to believing propaganda ads and posts.
“The younger generations are more susceptible to and therefore manipulated by social media,” Bennett said.
She added that older adults are more likely to read news in print or watch it on television from more reliable sources.
This leaves them less prone to the frenzy of what’s happening online.
So, should you rant or be ranted at?
If you find yourself bombarded with someone else’s rants, avoid them or get offline, Bennett advised.
If you’re getting heated up on a topic, it’s much healthier physically and emotionally to get calm, grounded, and then channel your thoughts and opinions in a productive, rational way, such as engaging in real-time in-person dialogue, Bennett advised.
Martin said all ranting can be damaging to our health, regardless of where it’s done. Unloading without a verbal filter can lead to altercations, damaged relationships, and physical health problems.
“It also leads to more anger, which is problematic,” he said.
“I think the only way it’s good for us is when the goal is to process what you are feeling to understand yourself and the situation better. When we ‘rant’ just for ranting’s sake, it’s no good,” Martin added.
Mary McNaughton-Cassill, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at San Antonio, pointed out a
“In general, expressing anger in person by yelling or banging things, or online ranting, tends to increase your levels of anger,” McNaughton-Cassill told Healthline.
She pointed out that hostility has been linked to an increased risk for heart disease.
“This is not to say that anger is never justified, but simply going over and over why you are mad does not reduce emotionality or solve problems,” she added.
McNaughton-Cassill believes that people need to develop media literacy skills to combat fake news and propaganda. These skills can help reduce ranting and its harmful health effects.
“Especially on social media, we need to be smarter about what we post and share,” she said. “If you simply want to let off steam, ranting may feel good in the short run, but it doesn’t reduce your anger levels overall and is unlikely to create positive dialogue with others.”