20 Aug 2010
By Mat Unwin

Letting off steam in the connected age


This morning’s schedule was unusual – though not as unique as I might wish for. My train arrived 12 minutes late, and packed to the gills. I spent the time standing in the cold basking in the glow of my phone – flipping off a quick email and then posting my aggravation to the captive facebook crowd I’ve amassed over time.

It was kind of like a cross between a quiet offloading to a good friend and an out-loud shout of my frustration. It felt liberating and calming to be able to just talk it out – even if the conversation was one-sided at first.

During the stop-start journey over the next hour and a half I used my iphone, apps and internet to both amuse myself, but also to relieve the frustration of a journey not going to plan. Looking up, I could see many other commuters engaged in similar activities. Meanwhile, the increasing number of ‘like’ responses and comments on my post had given me the digital equivalent of a one-armed shoulder hug and told me that ‘We’ll get through it – it’s ok’…and it was.

Years ago, the only outlet to let off steam in a packed train was your fellow passengers or network staff (and the person you are faced with is unlikely to be the one responsible), but these days we can reach out to anyone we need and find any number of ears to listen. There’s a strong case to be made for social support networks as effective stress management tools.

Does being more connected  lead us to a future in which dealing with stress in public is easier?


Posts: 4


  1. Larry Sixsmith (Telstra Staff) says:

    OH for sure Mat. It is wonderful how we are able to vent right there and then with out offending any one in our immediate vicinity. Some how it feels rewarding when comments are returned on a virtual vent. I guess its the agrreeance that makes us feel better. Mind you it only works well if the device you are using works ok. If not the vent tends to be taken out on the device. For example banging the touch screen as apposed to tapping. I must say though, there is nothing like a good two way verbal vent. For that matter even a one way verbal vent. I’m thinking of what my poor cat cops some times.

  2. Michael Teague says:

    Agreed Mat,

    though the first person to invent an effective “cone-of-silence-scream-your-head-off-and-wave-your-arms-in-the-air-without-disturbing-fellow-passengers” application will still make a fortune.

  3. Mick says:

    hey Mat
    You are spot on, it can help deal with anger as well as stress. The vent via social networks is so easy these days.
    Bless the iPhone.
    But have we came to a point through extremely high expectations, everything is deemed negative or a fail – I rarely post the positive stuff … just saying

  4. Gaby Phipps (Telstra employee) says:

    I think this is a wonderful way to let off Metro steam Mat. It’s much better than the people who squish into an already packed train, and then feel the need to scream at the people around them for invading their person space.

    While I’m at it, I’d like to vent. I hate those people who insist on leaning against the pole in a packed train so that other people have nothing to hold onto. They’re perfectly comfy and balanced leaning back, and they don’t seem to care about the people stumbling around them. How hard is it to stand up straight and let other people hold on? I mean really, who do these ‘pole-leaners’ think they are?

    Thanks for providing me with this outlet Mat, I feel better.

  5. M@ says:

    Lol! @Michael – I know so many times when I’d pay anything for that app – and not just on the train…

    @Mick- I was thinking exactly the same thing as I finished writing this and have already started on another blog regarding our natural tendency to promote the ‘fails’ but keep the ‘wins’ to ourselves.

    @Gaby- my pleasure. Anytime! :)

  6. Larry Sixsmith (Telstra Staff) says:

    Gaby you are right on the mark about pole hoggers. Drives me NUTS. I ask the pole huggers to allow me to use a wee bit so I don’t fall over. I have never had any back lash when asking. I must admit one time I did get cranky at a space crowder. The train was not packed and yet he crowded me. I moved and he moved with me. I put up my hands “Julia Gillard” style and said SPACE…. he moved back.

  7. MarkyJ says:

    I think social media is great if you do get support and validation. If you can create a sense of community that is great. I just wish more people would also say ‘hi’ to me when I say ‘hi’ to them walking in the street. Unfortunately it is hard to catch their eye when they are busy tweeting ;-)

  8. Em says:

    my favourite line is “Meanwhile, the increasing number of ‘like’ responses and comments on my post had given me the digital equivalent of a one-armed shoulder hug and told me that ‘We’ll get through it – it’s ok’…and it was.”

    there’s something quite poetic about it.

    it’s true. i spent alot of my time on the train texting and/or talking to friends about things that have made me smile or frustrated me – the latter usually being public transport!

    great post.

  9. M@ says:

    @MarkyJ – it’s also hard to avoid them. I’ve collided with many unobservant texters over the years. The support and validation point is great in a social context and I’m also finding it increasingly relevant in a business environment too. collaborative blogs and forums provide unique opportunities for peers to contribute to developments they might otherwise not have been exposed to – as well as helping/supporting their co-workers and identify solutions that might have otherwise gone undiscovered.

    @Em – Thanks for the feedback! I think that any time we see a little of our own experiences in the writings of others we feel that way, and it’s true of hearing comments back too.


  10. Glen Pendavingh says:

    that is all very well. meanwhile at my home 32km from Melbourne CBD and on the Yarra River, I have to walk up a hill if I want the mobile to work. Good thing I have a chainsaw for a backup plan!

  11. Sapphire says:

    I agree Matt, women have been letting off steam since the beginning of time, interaction with fellow females flows easily. However with Men generally they don’t like to discuss their issues. Over the net however, strangely enough it’s a different story. We seem to feel more self confident & secure allowing ourselves to voice a tad more than we would have had it been face to face.

    A great tool for Adults.

  12. M@ says:

    @Glen – I’m assuming you plan involves using the chainsaw as stress relief, not taking calls, right? I know very well the way the dulcet tones of a 50CC engine and the rotating teeth of teeth of destruction sooth the soul when applied vigorously to a horizontal lump of lumber…but hard to achieve on a train…

    @Sapphire – even online, men are well behind women in being open to…err…being open. Most of us (and I say ‘most’) have a lot to learn when it comes to the acceptance that it’s ok to need help once in a while and to show we are human and loose it a little. Though for anyone who is a fan of Facebook and twitter etc, you can see this happening more and more in recent years.

    @MarkyJ raised an interesting point though – and I only just picked it up – are we opening up and interacting online, to the detriment of our interactions in the real world? Do you ever find yourself communicating to people online more than you do face-to-face? (when face-to-face is a viable option)

  13. Richard says:

    Yep one of the merits of the interactive world of the technology. Though do agree with MarkyJ.

    People are a little disengaged from what is happening offline a lot of the time by being engaged online. It really is a phenomenon.

    Any way a little old school here.

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