Health And Wellness

How Arguing With Strangers On The Internet Affects Your Mental Health

Photo: Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock
woman looking at her smartphone

Do you know that feeling of absolute disgust you get in the pit of your stomach when you read or see something on social media you know isn’t true? Or at least, you don’t agree with or believe to be true?

So, you decide to engage by commenting. The next thing you know, you're embroiled in a keyboard flame war arguing on the internet with a complete stranger.

Your heart rate goes up right along with your disgust as you scroll and respond to inflammatory remarks after insults, finger-pointing, accusations, and overall dehumanizing language.

There’s absolutely nothing you can do about it as your blood pressure begins to boil. It’s like watching — OK, reading — a train wreck. But you can’t seem to stop!

Suddenly, you toss your phone in frustration across the room and wonder why you continue to engage. Then you realize that another 30 minutes of your life has passed that you can’t get back.

You’ve been sucked down the Facebook negative algorithm rabbit hole once again.

RELATED: 13 Smart Ways To Make A Social Media Detox Work

Arguing with strangers on the internet is as bad for you as experiencing burnout.

That negative algorithm is intended to keep you engaged. Have you seen the film, The Social Dilemma, yet? Good use of your time, I promise.

I can’t think of a better thing for you to do for your mental health than to stop engaging and arguing with strangers on the internet.

As a burnout coach, I promise you the negative impact on your mental health is just as damaging as actually going through burnout.

Think of burnout as a frog, happily swimming in a pot of water that someone has walked by and turned the burner up to high. The frog boils and dies, with no idea what actually happened to it.

Arguing with strangers on the internet can have the same impact on your mental health as burnout.

Here are 4 real-life impacts arguing on the internet has on your mental health.

1. You feel more anxious every time you are online.

Your heart rate increases every time you use social media, due to the unknown response your post or comment may get. This anxiety can lead to elevated blood pressure and heart rate.

Honestly, there’s enough going on in the world to be anxious about. Arguing with strangers on the internet doesn't need to be added to the list of things that make you anxious.

2. Your stress increases.

You will notice that you have a shorter fuse, less patience, and are quicker to snap at others.

You’re in a constant state of stress and every message your brain receives — be it social media or someone standing in front of you — immediately goes into the stress response area of your brain.

Not the best place to make good decisions from!

3. You develop insomnia.

Replaying conversations that don't go your way in your mind is common. Replaying virtual arguments with strangers taking place online is damaging.

These internet arguments will have you up in the middle of the night replaying your answers and trying to change the outcome of the conversation.

You're robbing your body of valuable recovery sleep that it can’t make up for. Sleep deprivation makes you fuzzy in the brain and unable to focus.

This can impact your work performance or even your ability to drive a car.

RELATED: 5 Signs Social Media Is Actually Taking Over Someone's Life — And They Need To Quit

4. You develop physical ailments.

Yep, that’s right! Physical ailments are next when you finish stressing out your mental health and not taking care of it.

Stress is a known cause of all sorts of physical ailments, such as ulcers, diabetes, psoriasis, high blood pressure, weight gain, low sex drive, insomnia, and more.

Social media breaks are key to stop arguing with strangers on the internet. 

I stopped arguing with strangers on the internet back in November 2019. In fact, I stopped the social scroll completely. Even just scrolling caused my blood to boil.

While it was never my intention to permanently leave the social scroll, at the time, I just couldn't read one more negative comment that I didn’t ask for on my feed. Or have one more friend share a political post and tag me in it when I didn’t ask to engage.

I was stressed out enough from everything happening in the real world. This virtual world was stressing me out in ways I was taking offline with me. 

I also couldn't look at one more "Isn’t my life amazing?" staged photo. I decided Facebook was for braggers and bullies only — and I didn’t fit into either category. So, I took a break.

Going offline can heal you — mentally and physically. 

An amazing thing happened when I took that break from engaging with others in the social scroll: I slept better, I wasn’t as anxious, and I found I didn’t need to take Pepcid AC as often as I had been.

I felt much calmer and more at peace.

While my plan had been to return to social media after the first of the year, that changed when I received a call from a very stressed-out friend. What was she upset about?

She had engaged in a post on social media and was decimated by strangers who didn’t agree with her position. The more she had tried to engage and explain her position, the more she was trashed and trolled by these strangers.

And all she wanted was to be a part of the conversation! Her upset was physical at this point — she felt violated and enraged by the language of strangers towards her.

Needless to say, I personally will never argue with strangers online again and I recommend you don't, either.

If you really want to have a healthy argument with a stranger, try a platform that's designed to connect people by their differences, whether it's in politics, religion, race, etc.

The whole point of arguing is not to come to an agreement but an understanding. And it should feel safe and civil for all parties.

RELATED: 5 People You Should Unfollow So You Can Avoid The Negative Effects Of Social Media

Rachelle Stone is a burnout-prevention coach who specializes in supporting clients in avoiding burnout by managing their stress and energy for expanded capacity, better relationships, and increased monetary success. For more information, visit her website.