This is just one example of Sara’s tweets that regular fill her Twitter account. It doesn’t take much to anger Sara. If someone does something she doesn’t like, or seems insensitive to her place on the planet, Sara tweets about it. A cursory look at her Twitter account makes Sara a candidate for an anger management group! Yet she thinks her angry tweets allow her to vent pent up feelings of frustration.
But is Sara’s anger more of a problem than she realizes? Yes, for a couple of reasons.
First of all, venting anger doesn’t release it and make a person feel better. Actually, the opposite occurs. Venting anger doesn’t work. It just fans the flames. Anger is actually more destructive when it is full-on expressed. Expression releases the same hormones that are produced under stress and does damage to the body. A hostile attitude may even lead to heart disease, according to Duke researcher Dr. Redford Williams.[i] Intense anger wreaks havoc on the body.
Feeling angry is one thing, but letting it all out in unchecked ways is worse than repression. Venting damages relationships. Giving someone a piece of your mind can destroy the rest of the pieces of the relationship!
Second, Sara might be surprised to find out that researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and other schools decided to look at the language of tweets for expressions of love, boredom and anger. In the 1300 counties they studied, they found a remarkable predictor of heart disease. You guessed it! Angry tweets.
In fact, angry and hostile tweets were such a powerful predictor of heart disease that they did a better job of prediction than 10 leading health indicators.
Do we understand this connection between angry tweets and heart disease? Not really. Maybe Twitter reflects deeper frustrations and the carrying of stress. Maybe angry tweeters create bad feelings in others and themselves. Maybe all that venting is simply raising stress hormones and wreaking havoc on the body.
Whatever the case, perhaps Sara should rethink her tweets and focus less on what angers her, try to give people a break or focus on the positives. So Sara, here is how you can change that angry tweet:
#WorkingOnMyAngerinNYC. Please look up when you walk the streets. Consider others. It’s a crowded city!
[i] Redford Williams, Anger Kills: Seventeen Strategies for Controlling the Hostility That Can Harm Your Health (New York: Harper, 1994).