How Online Venting Can Cost You
By: Andrea Eldridge, CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, an on-site computer and laptop repair service company.
Whether it involves a terrible day at work, an argument with a spouse, or just a day when everything rubs you the wrong way, sending off angry texts, emails, or social media posts is never the way to handle it. Even those posts that feel so therapeutic to finally get off of your chest should be steered clear of. Online venting usually does not work out in favor of the content’s original creator.
Everybody needs to vent sometimes, which is why having a pet is always great; something to listen to you that will not judge you no matter how odd your problems are. Unfortunately, accessing your social media profiles and firing off a few disgruntled Tweets is much too easy in today’s world. Although the temporary adrenaline rush may feel soothing for a short time, chances are people will take the message the wrong way, or those not-so-close Facebook friends will share your post with their unknown friends. Before you know it, a post that was just meant to blow off some steam has gone viral, and people are calling you crazy.
Online venting feels safer and more soothing than confronting people face to face, but this sense of anonymity often leads to rude or inflammatory responses that you would not say in person. Since online venting can happen so quickly, many posts are not well thought out and can be dangerous to relationships with those who feel targeted by your comments. According to research, venting does not actually make you feel better at all. In fact, venting is likely to make you even angrier due to responses or lack thereof.
Dr. Brad Bushman from Ohio State University in Columbus found through his research that test subjects that ruminated on a particularly frustrating issue got more angry and aggressive in their descriptions of the issue or person who caused the problem. Those who did not engage in venting were more likely to respond calmly after a situation that upsets them. When this study was published in the Wall Street Journal in April of 2015 by Elizabeth Bernstein, it surprised many readers and helped change the way some people approach their personal or social problems.
For every person that saw and believed the research published in the Wall Street Journal in April of 2015, hundreds did not. There are a surprisingly large number of people who have lost their job due to a careless or thoughtless social media update. For instance, Jessica Bibbs, a woman from Arizona who publicly badmouthed the physical therapy office that she worked at after not receiving a promotion that she obviously felt she deserved. She posted comments on her Facebook page like, “This place is a joke!!!” or taking more personal jabs at her co-workers, “I hate fake and lazy ppl!!!” Since the incident, Bibbs has argued that she believed her Facebook comments were supposed to be “private” but that did not stop her from losing her job over a couple of sentences.
Another online venting horror story belongs to Kaitlyn Walls, who was fired from a daycare center because of a Facebook post that was posted before her first day on the job. The post was about how much she hated working in day care centers and hated being around groups of kids. Of course she thought that her comments could only be seen by close friends, but instead she ended up receiving angry messages from strangers who had seen her post being shared throughout Facebook.
Online venting can not only cost you your current job, but future job opportunities as well. According to a CareerBuilder study, almost half of employers surveyed looked up candidates on social media sites, and 36% of employers say that they have even eliminated someone from the interview process because they bad-mouthed their previous employer or a co-worker.
So the next time you feel the need to take your venting to Facebook or Twitter, try some of these steps instead:
1. Be anonymous – You can vent your anger or frustration on the site called Muttr. You can read peer comments, which you can choose to read or ignore. Some may offer advice or sympathize with your plight, others may even goad you into an argument – Either way you are anonymous and it gives you a safe place to vent, keeping your relationship with your boss intact.
2. Turn it off – Then walk away, at least until you’ve had a chance to calm down. Find a way to distract yourself – watch funny videos online, walk it off, spend some time with your kids, the list is endless, anything that helps you to forget your frustrations.
3. Journal it– Go ahead and write about in a Word document that you can save on your computer. Some people are able to understand all sides of an issue if they take the time to thoughtfully think about and present their argument. Then if the issue is still making you angry a day or two later, go back to the letter with a clearer head and pick and edit the best-phrased parts to take with you to talk to the other person face-to-face.
Host: If a frustrating day at work or a spat with your spouse has ever tempted you to send off an angry email, text, or a social media post, you may want to reconsider all that. Because Ryan Eldridge from Nerds on Call will tell us why. One strike on the social media and it lives forever.
Ryan: Yeah. When we post things online, sometimes we don’t realize it stays there forever. Sometimes we’ll post something online, we’re thinking “Oh! I’m really just getting this off my chest!” Well the problem is somebody can share that email, or that post, with people you didn’t intend. And sometimes we’re friends with other people than just our friends online, so we’ve got co-workers and bosses and things in our Facebook feed that might see something we didn’t intend for them to see.
So when you’re venting online, sometimes it feels like a quick way to get something off your chest and it feels nice and safe because there’s no one there to defend themselves and talk back to you. And it’s easier to say things that maybe kind of get out of hand. And the problem is that if you’re not paying attention to what you’re doing, you can really damage relationships and if that information gets into the wrong hands, it can cause some real damage.
Host: One person told me one time, someone will send you a nasty email and you respond. And if you feel really good by going like that and send, don’t do it.
Ryan: People report they feel better when they vent online, but it turns out researches have found that actually it makes you angrier and more aggressive. And if your name’s not attached to it, and you’re doing it anonymously, it actually makes you worse, like super hostile. So it’s not really giving you that feeling of release that you want, it’s actually making it worse. Plus, on social media, if our friends get on there and start going, “Yeah! That jerk was so mean to you!” They can rile you up and make it even worse, and you don’t necessarily want that.
Host: So what are some of the consequences when you fire off that and then later on you may have some remorse? It’s too late.
Ryan: Yeah, well it can cost you your jobs. So there was a woman recently in Texas. And she was working at a daycare center and she posted to social media that she just hates working with children and she doesn’t really like working there. And well, she got fired for that. There was another woman in Phoenix who criticized her job at a physical therapy place where she was saying things like, “I hate this place. This place is a joke. And I hate these fake and boring people at work.”
Host: You have to know, people are going to read that and it’ll get back to your boss. That’s career suicide.
Ryan: She thought it was totally private and it turns out it wasn’t. Or one of her friends could have at least posted that and given it to someone else. So that’s not good.
Host: What do you suggest people do? Because everything they do now, every thought as they type, everything’s a text, an Instagram, a Facebook post, an email. What do you suggest? Be our psychologist here.
Ryan: Here’s what I would do. First thing is just turn off your computer and your phone, don’t do it. Just kind of put it down and calm down first. If you absolutely have to pound it out on the keyboard to let somebody know how you feel, try this website. It’s called Muttr, M-U-T-T-R.com. You can type on there, tell them all kinds of crazy stuff. Other commenters can talk about and commiserate with you or they can give backlash a little bit and say “Shush! You don’t know what you’re talking about!”
Host: You better not send that. If I were you, I wouldn’t do it.
Ryan: Or you know what you can do is just open up a Word document and really just pound it out and write all the nasty things you want to say and then save it on your desktop and come back to it later.
Host: I think that’s a great idea.
Ryan: And the next day, you can kind of edit it, find the best phrases “Oh! That was a real good zinger right there!” And then take it to the person that you’re having a problem with and say “Hey listen, I want to talk you. Something was bothering me.” You got it all written up.
Host: It’s kind of one thing I learned from Amy when she’s crafting a really nasty email. She’ll re-edit, edit. She’ll go through it, she’ll take out the bad stuff and then she’ll send it. And by the time she sends it, it’s not nearly as bad.
Amy: It’s true.
Ryan: Amy sent me a nasty email this morning and it was just fine.
Host: I’ve learned a lot from Amy. All right, tell us your app of the week.
Ryan: So the app of the week is called Flixster. This is great if you want to research movies that are out, that are coming up or that are out right now. You can get information about them, you can watch trailers. Also, you can get showtimes for movies in your area and it gives you ratings from Rotten Tomatoes. So you’re getting, sort of like, all the reviews from all over, not just from the Sac Bee. And also, you can build a want-to-see-it list if you hook it up with Netflix. So if you go, “Oh! I want to see that, but it’s not theater worthy.” You can add it to your Netflix list so it will automatically come into you queue when you’re ready to watch it.