In a recent study by the American Counsel of Journalistic Psychiatry, researchers discovered a correlation between emotional stress and time spent reading comment sections on Internet articles. Readers of satirical sites, says the ACJP, are particularly prone to high blood pressure, repressed anger, and other symptoms of mental and emotional strain.
“I read this hilarious article about how a bunch of kids went to a birthday party, but took back the gifts when they found out there weren’t any party favors,” recalls Robert H. Wertzel, who took part in the study. “I mean, it was clearly satire. But all these moms in the comment section were lambasting the selfish kids who returned the gifts, and complaining about how entitled everybody is nowadays. Who ARE these people?”
Wertzel reported migraine headaches and nervous twitches lasting for several days after reading the aforementioned comments.
Other participants had similar stories. “I felt like my head was actually imploding,” one reader says about her experience after reading an article that had prompted some commenters to question the validity of an obviously made-up study and to shame The Onion for calling itself “America’s Finest News Source.”
“I don’t trust people any more,” laments an anonymous participant. “You go into the world expecting that most adults will have at least a basic grasp of sarcasm, but I now realize that’s not the case. I’m almost afraid to share these articles on Facebook. What if some of my friends don’t pick up on the satire either?”
Researchers found a much higher occurrence of negative symptoms amongst participants who, based on the results of an ACJP-devised test (Sarcasm Aptitude Test), posessed a high aptitude for sarcasm.
“Low scorers on the SAT experienced no negative effects whatsoever,” Vernon Gray, head of the ACJP’s research division, told reporters. “While we are cautioning high scorers to avoid comment sections entirely, we have found that sarcasm-deficient individuals can safely read the comments on as many articles as they wish to read.”
Gray’s recommendations are supported by a statement from Sally R. Witlis, whose scores on the SAT landed her in the eighth percentile.
“Reading and making comments is my favorite part of Internet articles,” she says. “There’s a lot of crazy stuff going on in the world, and more people need to be upset about it.”