When the news infuriates you, a 140-character hissy fit is cathartic—and pointless, like an obscene gesture in traffic. Next time you feel ideological road rage, put down the phone and ask yourself...

Am I Just Yelling?
“It’s fine to rant sometimes,” says Zeynep Tufekci, PhD, technosociologist and author of Twitter and Tear Gas. “Social media can be a powerful way to say ‘This is where I stand.’ But picking fights is like arguing with your crazy uncle.” And if you’re a habitual spewer, some of your potential audience may have already tuned out: According to a 2016 Pew Research Center survey, 39 percent of social media users have changed their settings or blocked or unfriended posters to avoid political content.

What’s My Larger Goal?
Shares and likes don’t matter unless they lead to acts. “If I’m a legislator, I’ll pay attention when you raise money and recruit candidates to challenge me,” Tufekci says. “I’ll care a lot more about that than your tweet.”

Instead of Fomenting Anger, Could I Offer Help?
Kindness can also go viral: During the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after the decision not to indict the policeman who killed black teenager Michael Brown, many schools and businesses were shuttered, but the library stayed open. When Twitter users began posting that they were supporting it with a donation, word spread and more than 7,000 contributions poured in. As @fergusonlibrary tweeted: “OH MY SWEET LORD!!!!! The goodness of people far outweighs the hate.”


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