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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

Trigger warnings: Mentions of homophobia, sexism and bigotry.

Have you ever been in this situation? It’s 11 p.m., and you’ve just opened Instagram or TikTok for a late-night scroll before going to bed. You’re scrolling through the same old posts with the same old audios and, suddenly, you come across an interesting post. Maybe it’s someone talking about a controversial topic or maybe it’s something as egregious as a woman with an opinion. At least, that’s the perspective the comment sections on these videos seem to have. You’re reluctantly opening the comments to see what other people have to say, only to find the most enraging string of words anyone has ever typed with 236 replies. Now you’ve got to read those replies just to see people write satisfying comebacks shooting down the comment. Or maybe you’re coming up with your own reply or scrolling through more infuriating comments. Finally, you’ve got to call it quits, since you have class the next morning. You glance at the clock and—woah. How is it 12:23 a.m.? You just picked up the phone! It can’t have taken that long, can it?

I find myself in situations like these all the time, idly scrolling until I’m pulled in by posts that ignite anger. Sometimes, the content of the posts themselves is upsetting. Other times, it could be the most wholesome post with somehow the grossest comments. A few times they’re about topics I should know about, such as civil rights, labor strikes and other social movements around the world. On the other hand, they’re “Am I the A******” Reddit posts by a man contemplating how to leave his wife who just got diagnosed with ovarian cancer (yes, this is a real story). The “alpha male” podcast clips, the videos spewing homophobia, the comments sections filled with sexism—it’s well-known that these things were designed to incite rage and hurt in order to get clicks on social media and drive up engagement. Even though I can objectively recognize this, it’s still addicting to flip through these posts and revel in my anger at them. Given the way social media works, there’s no concrete way to protect ourselves from such hateful content, so it becomes an inevitable cycle.

Often, I find myself spending hours caught in by such posts, reading or watching several of them in a row. Many times, I could be having the most amazing day, only to open my phone and find myself trapped in the anger content loop. Even if I manage to escape, I leave with the sour aftertaste of fury and frustration that I carry around with me the rest of the day.

This brings me to the burning question: Why? What is it about these posts that cause the endless scrolling and urge to binge through the comments? What fuels the need to pour time and energy into something that I’ll likely not even remember next week? The only conclusion to draw is that anger is addicting. It’s the reason behind consuming this content even though it has such negative aftereffects. It’s the reason why these “controversial” opinions, which are often thinly veiled bigotry, get so much traction.

In fact, so-called “rage-baiting” is an actual strategy used by content creators and social media algorithms to get more views and, hence, more revenue. Facebook was exposed in October 2021 for being aware that its algorithm made users angrier, with their platform promoting divisive content that would get users riled up and engage more. On TikTok, rage-baiting is on the rise, with controversial content bringing in the majority of likes and followers. Since TikTok only pays creators for videos that are in the top 4% on the platform (based on views), the only way many content creators can compete to earn money is by making this anger-inducing content. In this competitive market, we the users get caught in the middle, forced to consume different brands of anger.

To be honest, I despise being angry. It’s a powerful but gut-wrenching emotion, and it can plague me for days. I’ve found that, just like an addiction, it takes work to overcome the urge to be angry, and it starts with the things you surround yourself with. Particularly, it depends on the content that the algorithm throws on your feed based on what you engage with. The simplest solution to this? Just don’t engage. While that may be easier said than done, when such posts come across my feed, I’ve started to hit “not interested” or simply scroll away. I’ve begun to train myself to just enjoy wholesome videos or clips from female comedians without checking the comments. I’ve even replaced my nightly social media routine with reading a chapter of my favorite book. The difference I’ve noticed is like night and day.

Limiting my exposure to anger content, specifically the content made to rile you up about mundane things, has made my outlook on life much brighter. I no longer have the sour aftertaste of anger lingering during my day. In fact, the content I see has completely changed—now my feed is dominated by cat videos, cool new recipes to try and crochet projects. This one change has added a bounce to my step that was missing before. Anger may be a powerful emotion, but I’ve discovered that so is joy. Of course, I haven’t cut myself off—there will always be events I should be aware of and social issues I need to engage in. Anger isn’t always wrong or inappropriate. In fact, sometimes it’s essential to survive. But there exists a certain need to prioritize which things are worth getting angry about. The unfortunate thing about social media is that there is no such regulation that can protect us from infuriating content or negative comments. So, it’s on us to take charge of the content we consume. Hopefully, someday, it won’t be this difficult to dodge the addiction of anger.

Saloni is a student majoring in Biomedical Engineering on the Pre-Health track at Saint Louis University. In her free time, she loves to read sci-fi novels, hang out with her friends, and sketch in her notebook. She's a huge fan of shows such as Supernatural and New Girl and is willing to talk about them for hours if given the chance!