SFU’s community isn’t just on social media

Internet rage should be funnelled through more productive channels like student unions

Being angry on the Internet may be valid, but often unproductive. PHOTO: Jesse K. / Unsplash

by Victor Tran, SFU Student

The Internet allows for the SFU community to remain connected no matter the distance. However, comment sections on SFU social media groups are filled with hateful and argumentative comments that contribute nothing to the issue at hand. Instead of participating in social media comment sections this way, SFU students should direct that time and effort towards realistic actions in order to make changes.

But first, we have to understand why Internet rage is a real phenomenon. There are two main reasons for it: anonymity and deindividuation. Since the Internet allows for anonymity, web users are more prone to composing angry or hate-filled comments from a lack of perceived responsibility. This leads to the phenomenon called deindividuation, where “social norms are withdrawn because identities are concealed.” Additionally, we cannot ignore the fact that the pandemic contributes to this issue. The negativity accumulated from not being able to interact with others has a role in raging on the Internet. This is because people have limited options to express these negative feelings because some ways of interacting socially are no longer safe. What is even worse is that the Internet is one of the only ways to reach out to people during the pandemic. So how do we make use of all these energies? 

Students would be better off taking constructive action on controversial SFU issues by looking for alternative outlets. These actions would benefit students’ mental health and overall lifestyle. It has been shown that rage can hurt our health; more participation with Internet rage, doesn’t help this. The Internet filled with argumentative posts, negative comments, and provocative headlines tends to encourage people to also participate in these kinds of activities. This immensely affects Internet users’ productivity as most of their time is spent arguing on the web. Yet, constructive actions can solve both of these issues. 

For example, joining a student union can not only provide career benefits, but mental ones as well. Becoming a part of a student union means that students are no longer anonymous, eliminating the first cause of Internet rage. Acting on our words in a student union also means that we are dealing with real issues face-to-face with people, requiring greater responsibility. Taking on greater responsibility can lead a student to be more motivated to make relevant changes. This ultimately takes time away from participating on the Internet, increasing both our productivity and mental health state. Putting in effort to make changes means that we take real action instead of spewing pointless words; we solve the issues instead of pushing the issues deeper by endlessly continuing irrelevant online arguments. 

Yet, we also have to understand that Internet rage is a real emotion that comes from real people. These arguments can be filled with aggressive emotions because they stem from real experience. Comments with the sentiment “stop being angry” are common in rebuttals, which absolutely does nothing to cool down arguments and denies the validity of commenters’ feelings. However, social media is not the only way that we can make use of our negative emotions or interact with people. There are better alternatives for online interactions which offer benefits for productivity and mental health.

Internet rage is a real thing but it is not inevitable. In order to create a healthy and productive SFU community, students should attempt to take a step back and evaluate how they spend their time and effort, which can instead be invested in taking constructive action.