Social media has given us an instant forum in which to express our thoughts on everything from sports to Scandal. And as you probably already know, it's especially useful when you're angry: If something in the news boils your blood—say, the media ruthlessly critiquing an actress' face—you can let it be known.
Well, it turns out this type opinion-sharing may actually be good for your mental health.
In a new study published in the British Journal of Social Psychology, 93 young women were given news articles to read about real instances of gender discrimination that occurred in the media, politics, and on a university campus. Afterward, the first group was asked to tweet publicly about what they had read. A second group also tweeted, but their Twitter accounts were set to private (to rule out any confounding effects of expressive writing.) A third group didn't tweet at all. The researchers then analyzed their tweets and surveyed the women to gauge mood and well-being in the few days afterward.
“Responding to sexism in any form is risky, scary and therefore very stressful because women often receive serious backlash,” explains study author Mindi Foster, PhD. “I wanted to find a way women could respond to sexism, but without sacrificing their psychological well-being.”
It was an episode of the CBS series Two Broke Girls, of all things, that inspired her. When one of the characters made an anti-Semitic joke, “I wanted to vent about it. I joined Twitter for that reason, and started feeling better,” she says, adding that it made her wonder if this type of action could help women feel better when confronting gender discrimination, too.
And in the end, it worked: Women in the study who shared their thoughts publicly experienced less sadness compared to the other two groups, and they got a boost in a measure of "overall psychological well-being." Meanwhile, the women in the other groups reported heightened levels of hostility and sadness.
The idea is that vocalizing your opinions in a public forum such as Twitter can be a form of activism, which translates to mood benefits by helping you feel a part of a cause greater than yourself. “Venting to our girlfriends may be good for [dealing with] a sexist remark made by a co-worker, but being exposed to systematic discrimination requires something bigger to affect well-being,” Foster says.
All this is to say, the next time you're totally riled about something sexist in the news, don't feel bad about firing up those fingers. Tweeting your rage can make you feel better—and who knows, maybe it'll lead to some widespread change.