All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players;
All day long, we all are performing for others. Few of us ever express our true inner selves. We put on a good face, do as we are expected, control our emotions, and speak the party line. People have a lot of thoughts and feelings bottled up inside that for whatever reason they cannot share with others in their lives.
They may not have anyone else in their lives. They may be afraid to share their thoughts and feelings with others because they are afraid--justified or not--the people in their lives won't be supportive. Their feelings may be socially inappropriate, like political opinions. Their feelings may be niche, like their reactions to a television show.
Humans are not built to suppress thoughts and feelings. We have an inherent need to socialize what we are thinking to validate ourselves, seek feedback and pushback to test and improve our feelings, and to connect with others with similar thoughts.
One of the more wonderful experiences of OnlineCommunity has been the freedom for people all around the world to process their thoughts and feelings. The ability to be anonymous or pseudonymous means that you can do so without risk to your daily life.
You can go online and pretend to be a different version of yourself. You can go online and express what is on your mind. You can go online and be your true self.
Are you unhappy in your marriage? You can vent online, read about others' experiences, or indulge in an online affair.
Are you queer but afraid to come out? You can explore how you feel and learn how others feel similarly to understand what you're going through, seek validation, and come to terms with yourself.
Are you angry or afraid about the world? You can go online to voice your political opinions, and learn that you're not alone.
SocialMedia? has proven it is a powerful public forum for political conversation. Unfortunately, the dominant sentiment is an outlet for anger and fear. A torrent of complaining and rage spew into Twitter; a tsunami of condescending judgment flows through Facebook. If there was ever a need for evidence that humans make decisions first with their feelings, and then form a weak ConvenientRationale to excuse it, political outrage online provides it.
Reddit is rife with people fighting and arguing about their political opinions. Despite the fact that rarely is anyone ever convinced, and the near certainty no one in actual political power reads or cares about what people say online, people go at it every day. Why? What is the purpose?
It's a place where you can test your thoughts and feelings. You can express yourself. You can contend with others who disagree with you and see if you can win. You can try out ideas that you're not sure about.
You can even jump from subreddit to subreddit and try on different opinions, or test yourself with people of varying political persuasions.
So what if you're wrong? You'll get downvoted. But your daily life is not affected.
Note that while it may be true that most people argue politics only to process their feelings, it is doubtful they are aware of it. People take these arguments personally. Maybe that makes sense. After all, they are expressing a raw part of themselves they are repressing elsewhere.
Be warned though that the Internet is not as anonymous as it claims to be. People do get outed and doxxed all the time.