The Surprising Consequences of Being Mean on the Internet

But being mean in a virtual world can spill over into real life, resulting in an increase in aggressive communication with coworkers, family members and friends that later must be repaired. While being unkind online can temporarily boost self-esteem, it's a short-lived high. For lasting benefits, you'll need to form meaningful connections within a group.

Not to mention that having a negative outlook on life could actually shorten your lifespan. Case in point? One study discovered happy nuns lived nine years longer than their negative sisters [source: Chopra].

Yet, our brains are wired toward negativity, both to give it and to remember it. Back in the Stone Age, it was more important to remember to avoid the threatening tiger than to approach the friendly dog. If you have a tendency to be an online downer, changing your persona could be as simple as retraining your brain. If you can encourage positive thoughts in real life, you're more likely to be nice online, too. By recognizing the many good things that happen throughout the day, such as finishing a work project, completing household chores or keeping a date with the treadmill, you're retraining your brain. The more you cultivate positivity, the more active the left side of your brain's prefrontal cortex will be, and over time, this activity will help overshadow any negative emotions that may crop up [source: Rope].

Still, the Internet seems to attract comments that people wouldn't dare express publicly in real life, especially when it comes to hot topics such as sexual orientation, ethnicity or gun control [source: Kornblum]. So what should you do if your blog, Facebook page, Twitter handle or Internet conversations become the target of a meanie? We've got a few tried-and-true strategies to employ on the next page.