What happens when someone “unleashes” on another person online or joins with others in an online lynch mob? Does the target suddenly “see the error of his ways” regarding whatever action or statement his attackers took issue with? Highly unlikely.
What usually happens is that the target feels under attack and typically has a biologically-programed fight-or-flight response – in other words, he or she will either counterattack or try to evade the situation.
What won’t happen, however, is that the person will be sincerely receptive to change and be convinced to think or act differently. Instead, they’re likely to discount the message. Why? Because of the insulting, demeaning, aggressive or threatening way it was delivered. Yes, the tone of the message can matter as much, and sometimes more so, than the information the message actually contains.
As eloquently stated in a recent article about conflicts in the scientific community,
As soon as any dispute rises to a certain level of vitriol, it’s inevitable that the partisans start looking (and sounding) like a couple of infants throwing temper tantrums….[we] should strive to keep our arguments rational, well-reasoned, and compassionate. It’s not just better-mannered not to partake in mud-flinging–it’s also more convincing…. This does not mean, however, that we should not shine a light on [the problems].
So if someone’s goal is to actually get through to another person, they need to consider their approach.
And if their desire is simply to vent and unleash on someone, the question then becomes why they have such poor emotional self-control and anger management skills that they believe that is appropriate behavior.