Verbal aggressiveness in social media

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №9 - 2017

Author: Hkraban Tatyana, Kiev Military Lyceum n.a. Ivan Bohun, Ukraine

Last decade is notable for increasing violence around the world. The whole world actually has become a global danger zone. At the present stage of social historical development the problem of aggression and violence is updated under conditions of the information society and the global information space, the rapid development of social communications, information and computer and telecommunication technologies: world order is collapsing, European Union based on the principles of freedom and democracy is undergoing an unprecedented trial, world order formed after the Second World war is radically changing. Separating from their national “roots” still further, transnational companies, especially in information technology, shape a global economy. National governments are losing the ability of managing them. Multinational global society is emerging. Network connections without which a modern society can’t function entwine planet.

Actuality of research is due to rising violence in the modern world. Up-to-date information technologies transforms social communication and thereby changes society. Traditional media increasingly gives way to social media. Not long ago complicating dissemination of false information and damaging psychological effects filters disappeared. Today even crazy can become an Internet “star” in the twinkling of an eye and affect the mood of millions and by means of that also affect public policy. State hierarchy is supplemented and sometimes is substituted for networking that is more chaotic in nature. This reduces the resilience and stability of the system and requires radically new approaches, knowledge and skills from those who must direct key social processes in a constructive direction. The problem of information aggression, destruction and violence belongs to extremely urgent and important research areas with scientific, practical and socio-political significance. This study is aimed to identify and describe the main forms of verbal aggressiveness in social media.

Materials and methods. Discursive fragments picked out from the comments of social networking website Facebook served as research materials. Owing to the methods of linguistic description and interpretative analysis of the text fragments the forms of verbal aggressiveness in social media were determined; pragmatic analysis contributed to the identification of characteristics of communication in social media.

Results and discussion. Although being in relationship with other symptoms such as anxiety, stress, frustration, depression etc. the phenomenon of aggression is a local phenomenon related to the sphere of communication. So we consider the verbal aggressiveness definition introduced by O. Khramtsov to be to the point: “Verbal aggressiveness is a deliberate, destructive behavior that manifests itself in a particular type of information acts that are verbal ones and motivated by hostility and hatred towards people, society. They cause damage to people’s life, health, honor, dignity, rights or cause them mental discomfort (state of stress, anxiety, fear and other negative emotions) [2, p. 8-9]. The scientific novelty of this research consists in focus on the verbal aggressiveness forms in social media. The main characteristics of social media are: a) multichannel system. If one of the communication process’ elements fails the system finds alternative ways to transfer information; b) publicity, accessibility, absolute equality of rights. Social media equalize the roles of recipient and sender, each communication participant has equal rights; c) the fundamental value of freedom of speech and freedom of expression; d) spontaneous, unstructured communication; e) private communication owing to possibility for users to control the level of access to the information posted on their profile and to control who has access to a particular part of the page; e) absence of external control; every user has right to act according to his needs; g) intertextuality that means users can share references to information posted on other sites with their friends; j) the duration of storage is uncertain since its carrier or group’s moderator can delete it at any time; a) focus on dialogue. Monologue is a replica of the great dialogue and has the potency to transform into dialogue or polylogue on the assumption of interest from others and their involvement by means of comments.

The forms of verbal aggressiveness in social media are:

1. Abuse. G. Kusov notes that “in the logical formula of speech act of abuse the thesis of individual’s social failure is peremptory set forth and this creates illocutionary effect of speech act of offense. In this sense the abuse is a speech act of direct action that is aimed to suppress the individual’s component of intellectual consciousness for the purpose of denying its social significance. Offensive judgment is based on the principle of depreciation of social significance: whatever you do or say does not matter because you can’t be “expert” in view of the fact that you are “social outcast”, you are at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Abuse is the result of tearing off such “title certificates” which record social status in society: deprivation of rank or title, setting the sentence and diagnosis, accusation of immoral behavior constitute the arsenal of pressure on communicative personality” [3, р. 86]. Abuse often serves as a value judgment and estimates absolute or relative value of any object (person). Taking into consideration the fact that modern society is informational one it should be noted that the most accurate assessments are represented in the social media where the vivid characteristics of politicians, cultural figures and show business can be found. Evaluation statements may include invectives which have the concept of obscene and indecent expression from the viewpoint of generally accepted norms of behavior [5, p. 18]. Analysis of comments indicates that for the implementation of the speech act of abuse such means are used in the social media:

1) evaluation statements which include negative component and indicate a low level of intelligence or psychological problems (Theendtimes, ifoneofthesenuttersgettherehandsonaweaponofmassdistractionthousandswilldie; Joe'sanidiot!! Spreading crap with no evidence!!; You are a fool!; Another unhinged, wild conspiracy theory by Joe; Joe is a Moron!!; Total idiotic fools; Clinton numb nuts; Crazy old Joe's been insane for years; CNN people are a bunch of dummies!!!; CNN! Moniker for Clearly nutjob nitwits; Fat chance, dumbass!; Clueless; Crazy old Joe's been insane for years);

2) allusions. Due to allusion each newly created text appears on the basis of pre-made texts: He's like King Midas evil twin, everything he touches turns to sh*t. When his executive orders and his toxic policies push his numbers below 35%, the GOP will impeach. They won't risk the mid-terms. Why would you lose your job in support of a loser?In this example there is the transposition of legend about Phrygian King Midas who was ruined by greed and stupidity in another text where the text-donor’s semantics is reconsidered, transformed and creates a kind of text-recipient’s semantic code. The author describes the politician like ugly twin of King Midas (King Midas evil twin) and owing to this intensifying design he demonstrates his contempt. In order to provide the text with expressive and emotional stress the author uses adjectives of general negative assessment (toxic policies), substandard vocabulary (sh*t, loser), interrogative sentence (Whywouldyouloseyourjobinsupportofaloser?), the threat-prediction (theGOPwillimpeach. Theywon'triskthemid-terms). This example instantiates that in most cases verbal aggressiveness is manifested due to complex of language means that are especially chosen. It should be noted that social media authors often use allusions associated with negative modes of Nazism (suffering, despair, fear, pain, uncertainty, chaos, anger, rage, malice, hatred, disappointment, hopelessness, absurdity): WhilstthisisanoutrageousproposalthattheNaziPartyactuallyproposedinthe1930s, it'sworthbearinginmindthatTheresaMayisincompetent. Business will not stand for it for a start. Theresa May is also not "strong" as her ideological predecessors in 1930s Germany were, if it's ever implemented, this policy will amount to a token fee or some easily circumvented "tax" that hardly anyone ever ends up paying; They just don't make dictators like they used to;

3) usage of invectives. The main thematic groups of invectives that are characteristic for social media include:

а) reference to devildom (Witchone;They literally worship the devil. Hail Satan!);

б) accusations of being born from parents who were not married (Disrespectful bastards who filmed this just kept on walking and filming while other people are helping the injured just to put it on fbook u sick twats);

в) designations of intimate relations, names of genitals, underwear (Delusionalpricks!; FuckingArabs; ugly motherfuckers; The threat to OUR culture is being held to ransom by the liberalist arseholes who allow the terrorists in!; you suck, and I'm sure you must not be much to look at; That disgusting crotch grabber is DONE... STICK A FORK; Perverts everyone of them; He turn's out to be just about as big of a candy ass as Obama. America still has its panties down to its ankle's for Saudi oil. There's no difference between Saudi's sick version of Islam and Isis or Iran or any other inbred Muslim country. Islam is peace my ass; Mate, what the fuck???);

г) counterpoising yourself imaginary reference group that embodies the “alien” (HonestlyhereinAustraliaweareshieldedfromtheseincidentssothatwedon'tthinkthatthereisanyrealthreat!! Videoing and sharing helps everyone around the world see exactly what's going on with no sugar coating as our government wants us to believe that there is no threat!! It's not very good footage but enough for everyone to see the carnage these monsters unleash on innocent people!!;I saw this on athreadI was on so I asked the douchebag what he objected to? Was it that he offended the Muslims, or was it that the thought of little children being murdered by these savage barbarian scum Muslims was justified to him? I asked what should he have called them? NO RESPONSE???????). In these passages disgusting creatures (monsters and savages) are represented as “aliens”;

4) metaphorical transfer (He'd be a lame duck). Analysis of comments shows that in social media such metaphorical transfer is widespread that attributes to the object of verbal aggressiveness phenomenon associated with evil: GOPispureevil. I think they actually get off on hurting people; He is a core of evil. В фрагменті: President Trump doesn't seem to have to drain the democratic swamp... they're doing pretty good at their own self-destruction! GLUB GLUB BOOM! Due to the metaphorical transfer of characteristics of the phenomenon “swamp” the Democratic Party represented by President D. Trump is presented as a residence of evil spirits and characterized by dirt, stagnation, lack of activities, initiatives;

5) use the adjectives of general negative evaluation of characteristics of personality (object, phenomenon) that demonstrate a negative attitude to the opponent: (Thisisdisgustingshouldbetakenofffb, disrespectfulwhoeverrecordedandputthisonFBislessthanapieceofshit; Don'tknowwhosemoredisrespectfulthepersonvideoingthis, thepeoplewalkingpast… theinjuredoryousadmoronsfor.postingit... thesepeopleonthefloorinjuredordeadaresomeone'smother, father, sonordaughter...; Theycangotohellthefilthylyingscum; Greedy, hypocritical, egotistical, power-hungry, homophobic, vindictiveandracists; Threeworthlesshumans; Corrupt, that'saboutit; They'rehorriblehumanbeingsandtheyneedtherapy. That's the matter with them; They are just fu....... mean, hateful!!!!!; They're revolting, but not revolting enough; Who cares? Yah the gender thing is retarded; Republicans a bunch of hateful people this is a huge part of the problem in the United States; They are ignorant...?; A more immoral group of individuals there never was; They are both destructive! They are both dangerous to our nation!). The examples indicate that for assessment the comparisons with those things that cause disrespect, contempt, disgust are used. The use of obscenities directed at a specific person is considered as aggressiveness and verbal attacks on the honor and dignity of the recipient.

2. The accusation of violating social norms. One form of verbal aggressiveness in social media is accusations of violation of the national and cultural behavior norms, neglect of certain cultural values. It is implemented by means of the following categories of vocabulary and idioms:

а) words and expressions denoting antisocial activity condemned by society (Thisvideoisagreattoolforawareness! You people are seriously focused on the person behind the camera and not the perpetrator??; They need to go to rehab for their power addiction; Ryan is vile, he delights in robbing the poor and giving to the rich. I hope the media is plastered with images of him laughing at stripping healthcare for thousands of his constituents; Folks, someone needs to say it! The Democrat Party died in 2016! It is UNDENIABLY the party of the felons, atheist, babykillers, illegals, perverts, Socialist Hollywood, benefit cheats, traitors, cowards. The worst of America!! Include STEPHEN COLBERT and CNN; A party dedicated to selfishness, greed, bigotry, and racism; Still only got the tip of the iceberg on Trump's treason with Russia; A blank check, a sex offender and someone who looks like they need to brush their teeth; Politicians need to get to work; stop looking for excuses not to; So apparently Comey lied under oath in front of Congress when he testified that Trump never pressured him to stop any investigation; It's a full line of corruption; Paul Ryan will steal your grandma's purse in broad daylight and blame Obama). Analysis of comments shows that accusations of such activity that has negative estimate from society are widespread in social media. They are: criminal law offence (perpetrator, illegals, benefit cheats, felon, sex offender, babykillers, robbing, stripping, steal), a very strong desire or need for something (addiction),fanaticism (bigotry), perjury (lied under oath), parasitism (looking for excuses not to get to work),treachery (traitor), corruption, racism;

б) words containing expressive negative assessment of human behavior, characteristics of his/her personality (Trumpisacluelesslyingconman. He is also his own worse enemy and doesn't know when to shut up. He just can't stop himself from lying. Also how people can listen to Brennan and co and say they've said there's no collusion is beyond me. Hey rethugs, get ready for your idiot in chief going down; Greed & fear; …hate, ignorance, racism, greed, misogyny....take your pick; This behavior isn't new. They have always been spineless, heartless, morally bankrupt, selfish, money-grubbing, power hungry, weasels; y'all are a disgrace to the country; Complete double standard; Thank you Joe, for finally realizing that Trump is a big fat lier; Show your evidence and source that you liars don’t have). Analysis of comments proves that outrage of social media users is largely caused by such negative traits as mendacity (lying conman), covetousness (greed, money-grubbing), devaluation of moral values (selfish, morally bankrupt, heartless), misogyny (misogyny);

в) words with a clear negative evaluation (hypocrite, scandalmonger, macromania): Americanshaveenduredtheslingsandarrowsoftheoutrageousliberalestablishment, whothinksofthemselvesasguardiansoftruthandtolerance, butinrealityarenothing more than self-righteous hypocrites with illusions of grandeur; Republican = hypocrite; MSNBC = Gossipmonger.

Negative information about a person is used for distorting the social identity’s image and leads to loss of the previous social significance of individual – subject of verbal aggressiveness from a collective perspective.

3. Derision. In social media derision is realized in the following form:

а) derision based on the subtext or ironical discrepancy with the real meaning: Pleasegotoanemergencyroomimmediately. You have missed taking your medication and we fear for your safety. In this example for the purpose of hidden derision the author cares for the recipient’s health in ways that feign serious, compassionate, respectful feelings but the hidden subtext suggests quite the opposite. Thus, the author is not in open conflict, however, the sharp comic manifestation in this comments suggests his objective to humiliate an interlocutor, to cause resentment. The degree of verbal aggressiveness intensity in such derisions takes “faded”, “fuzzy” forms: Where'sthemeninwhitecoats?;

б) sarcasm, distinctive features of which are the sharpness and ruthlessness, the expression of hatred: The reason why satire works so well in regards to the 'President' is that one can say the mostoutrageousthings and therealityis even moreoutrageous. The Trump Administration is like a really bad TV comedy satire of government. It would almost be funny if it were not so fucking tragic. I do not like using that word. I keep searching for a better one, but when you want to describe the worst possible thing you need the worst possible word. Nothing else would be quite appropriate. This whole shit-show is so entirely predictable. Why should anyone have expected anything different? Trump has been a little dictator all his life one can guess. Born with a gold spoon in his mouth he probably always got his way even as a child. He has been the dictator of the Trump empire his whole adult life.This is why it was always stupid to think, just because he was super wealthy and thus obviously a 'good business man' that he would make a good President. He wants to run the country the way he runs his business, but the nation is not a business. That is one of the gross misunderstandings that lies behind the whole Republican party today. The reason why the nation is not a business is that it does not exist merely to maximize the wealth of the owners. Ahem, at least that is not the way that government of the people, by the people and for the people is supposed to work. Yes the Democratic Party has also turned in this direction in recent years, but this is because of the pervasiveness of that gross misunderstanding about government in minds of so many Americans today. The Republicans are just so much more brazen about it. There isn't even any vestige of the idea that part of the purpose of government involves regulations on business owners to protect the rights of the people. With the Trump Administration the curtain has been pulled back on what happens to democracy when the people do not understand the purpose of their own government. Unfortunately, this comedy satire taking place the nation's capital today is likely just the prelude. Tragic consequences for the people are inevitable. I heard a rumor from a trusted friend who reports that reliable sources have indicated that the FBI already has drawn up indictments on the whole Administration. I can only hope so. My guess is that they won't last the year, probably not the summer. But what havoc will be wrought till then? Will the people learn their lesson?

In this comment the author demurs the existing reality which, in his opinion, lost ethical standards. It should be noted that for expression satirical author’s attitude the metaphor contributes in a great measure. In it the author compares the current socio-economic situation in the US with unsuccessful television comedy, D. Trump is portrayed as a dictator born with a golden spoon in his mouth. The satirical effect is also achieved by means of the grotesque: the author describes the country like a theater and a tragicomedy is unfolding on its stage. For implementation of satirical effect in presenting America like theatrical performances the lexical units specially chosen by the author contribute: satire, comedy, tragic, thecurtainhasbeenpulledback, shit-show, funny. Also, the author uses the negative vocabulary words to demonstrate criticism, contempt, disapproval, discontent towards a person whose personal qualities or behavior, in his/her judgment, do not correspond to moral and social norms and rules of society: outrageous, bad, theworst, inappropriate, stupid, misunderstanding, pervasiveness, notunderstand, unfortunately, indictments, havoc.

4. The hostile remarks. In opinion Y. Shcherbinina the main purpose of hostile remarks is “to change addressee’s cenesthesia by means of expressing negative judgments first and foremost on a personality at large, then on his/her actions, behavior etc” [4, с. 163]. Hostile remarks are considered to be one of the possible forms of open verbal aggressiveness of both offensive and defensive character. As a rule, they are short and emotionally tinged: I think this is absolutely disgusting!; It's sick!!!!!!!!!; How awful; Your opinion is worthless; Shame on them!; Disgusting!; You go CNN right down the toilet; Who cares?

Maledictions may also be reckoned in hostile remarks. They are thought to be speech act with emotionally evaluative attitude and emotional impact the reason for which is the author’s sense of opponent’s behavior inconsistency of standards or speaker’s notions about it. The implicit form of maledictions with using introductory word combinations and sentences is typical for social media: Hopeherotsinhell; Hopehegoesdown! I believe he (Trump) will resign because he is too weak to take the pressure, or using modal verbs must, ought, should, need: Theyallmustgowiththeirregressiveevilagenda; The Dictator and his Bag of Idiots need to be removed.

It should be noted that maledictions are not typical in the English-speaking social media.

5. Censure. It is understood to be speech genre in which “the speaker expresses a negative assessment of acting or behavior of a person who is not involved in the conversation” [1, p. 46]. Taking into account the “object” the censure may be regarded as a direct and implicit. In direct censure the object is openly indicated: Trump and his Administration have entered Washington with the help of the GOP leadership with the goal of raping and pillaging the world of oil and natural gas! Americans will have none of that! Clean energy, pluralism and a better quality of life forworking Americans and Taxing the top 1% because their greed is obviously not going to change on its own! The GOP would rather fall apart than stand for the good of American people. Russia is not our sovereign neighbor!!!In the given example the main means of censure are words with semantics of destruction for noting the destructive impact on the subject (raping, pillaging, fallapart), words containing expressive negative assessment of human behavior or his/her personality’s characteristics (greed), the formation of the opposition “friend” – “alien” (Americanpeople – Russia; Americans – TrumpandhisAdministration), denial (notgoingtochange; notoursovereignneighbor; noneofthat).

Implicit form of censure may be expressed by means of:

а) comparison with another object (person): Does anyone remember Obama colluding and having a bonhomie with Russian plutocrats in White House?Does anyone remember Obama cheating students at a fake university? Does anyone remember Obama grabbing P....y? Does anyone remember Obama going off to his personal retreat every week end playing golf at tax payer expense? Does anyone remember Obama hiding tax returns? Does anyone remember Obama's daughter selling underwear using President's office? I can go on on on ... Wake up or you might hurt yourself soon! In the given example the name of D. Trump isn’t mentioned but the reader hasn’t doubts of who is the subject of the charges. The author uses a formation of opposition “the former president” – “the current president” and allusions to the biggest scandals associated with the name D. Trump;

б) critics of the opponent’s milieu: Blind allegiance to party over country for starters... and the arrogance that they thought they could ride this bronco and not fall off in the process....Republicanism is a mental disorder. Created in the crucible of deep seated self loathing, contempt for others, and endemic corruption and wealth worship. A sick and twisted pathology steeped in personal self aggrandizement, a reflexive hatred for government and what it provides our people, and a single mindedness that allows them to convince themselves in the complete rightness in what they do, and how they view the world. A danger to national security, and doomed political ideology that shows nothing but contempt for our Democratic processes, and Democracy itself. In this comment the censure is directed at the Republican Party represented by D. Trump. Thus, by establishing semantic relationships between individuals and his milieu evaluated negatively, D. Trump is the subject to criticism as head of the party for the policy he is responsible for.

6. Threat. English-speaking social media is characterized by the use of threat-incitements (Closing in! Lock HIM up!; Donald Trump needs to be listed as a #RussianAgent; Mad dog and you know what to do with it. Get him out NOW;Resisttrumpsinhumaneagenda, andtyranny. Speak out. Dissent is patriotic; FLUSH CONGRESS; Get rid of Scarborough and bring back some of the real journalists that you have fired; Can someone please impeach and get rid of this bubble head; Such simple solution: fire the all!) and threat-predictions (He will be impeached – before you can say, "RUSSIAN ROULETTE"!!!).

7. Use the invectives. Breach of ethical standards of communication and decline in language culture are a manifestation of indirect verbal aggressiveness that may be perceived by opponent as conscious intention to offend the opponent for the purpose of demonstrating his/ her dominant position: Threepiecesofshitallinarow!; Whatasick load of crap; Theycangotohellthefilthy lying scum; Nobody Fucking Cares! He must be pissed. It never ends.Huge bombshell my ass I bet it's Preibus or Bannon. They're being picked off one by one. Good riddance, fucking traitors. He better return the god damn plane!

Conclusion. Quantitative analysis shows that in English-speaking social media such forms of verbal aggressiveness as censure (31%), abuse (24%), accusation of violating social norms (22%) are used more frequently. Taking into account quantitative indicators the using of verbal aggressiveness forms may be represented as a chain: censure > accusation of violating social norms > use the adjectives of general negative evaluation of characteristics of personality (object, phenomenon) that demonstrate a negative attitude to the opponent > derision> hostile remarks > evaluation statements which include negative component and indicate a low level of intelligence or psychological problems> threat > use the invectives> allusions> metaphorical transfer.


1. Dyachkova I.G. Statements-praise and statements-reproaches as speech genres in modern Russian. – Omsk, 2000. – 127 p.

2. Khramtsov O.M. Criminology of verbal aggression. – Kharkiv, 2003. – 19 p.

3. Kusov G.V. General and particular problems of forensic support of linguistic expertise // Historical, philosophical, political and legal sciences, culturology and art history. Questions of theory and practice. – Tambov: Gramota, 2011. – No. 5-3. – C. 84-89.

4. Scherbinina Yu.V. Verbal aggression. – Moscow: LKI, 2008. –360 p.

5. Zhelvis, V.I. Field of abuse: Foul language as a social problem in languages and cultures of the world. – M.: Ladomir, 2001. – 349 c.

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №9 - 2017

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