“Why I’m Quitting This Group and What You Need to Change,” the subject line reads. It’s a post on the forums of an organization where I’m a member. I can see there are already 40 replies.
I probably shouldn’t smile, but I do. I already know before I click into the post what it’s going to say, more or less. Because this isn’t my first ragequitting rodeo, not by a long shot. Haven’t done it myself, but I’ve been there many times when someone announces they’re leaving and then launches a parting salvo. Usually, this is a list of criticisms, framed as factors that drove them away.
Sometimes this feedback is well worded, easy to follow. But many other times, it’s not. You never know before you dive in. And even in the cases where someone is at least semi-constructive, it’s a rare ragequitting post indeed that manages not to undermine the point by peppering it with random barbs that don’t do much more than alienate anyone who chooses to stay in the group.
As I click through, I find this is more of a vague ragequitting post. No details. No context. And strangely, given the subject line, no specific suggestions about what needs to change.
I look over the replies quickly. Lots of people basically saying “don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” A couple of people expressing concern and asking follow-up questions, which the OP doesn’t answer. They seem to have dropped the post and ran.
Over the next few days, I dip in periodically, as the chat client informs me that there have been updates in the thread. People argue for a solid week about nothing. Nothing changes. OP never posts or replies again.
The Choice to Ragequit Is Fascinating to Me
Like I said, I’ve never ragequit a group before. I imagine it feels good. Cathartic. Just like how venting can feel neurochemically good (which is why you can become physically addicted to making angry rants).
I typically just leave when I’m unhappy with a group. And if I care enough about the future of the group, I might reach out to people I trust who are still in the organization and who respect me and my opinion and share some of my thoughts about why I left. But I typically don’t do this in front of a large public audience, in a forum where tons of confused third parties who don’t really know me or any of the issues involved can weigh in and muddy the waters.
And that’s only if I really sincerely care. A lot of times, when I’m completely fed up, all I really want to do is move on and find somewhere better to spend my energies.
If I really care about an organization and if it thrives, I typically stay and do what I can to make it better.
So in a way, the choice to ragequit is fascinating to me. Especially the desire to announce it in public, have as many people as possible know that you’re leaving.
I wonder if it’s because I’ve been on the other side of it so many times and seen how people actually react to ragequitting. I’ve seen people ragequit and leave, and many, many times absolutely nothing changes. Perhaps it is an effective strategy sometimes? I’ve just never seen it play out that way. Pretty much all that seems to happen when I’ve seen it is a few people make fun of the ragequitter. At the very most, a ragequitting might drag a few folks with them, causing them to quit as well. That does happen, especially with people who were already halfway out the door anyway, for their own reasons.
But maybe that’s the point. Maybe it’s not about changing the organization at all, making it better as you leave. Maybe it’s about taking a few people with you when you do.
To be fair, there are probably people who ragequit with the intentions of improving the place they’re leaving. The trouble with this is that even when you have a valid point, you also have psychology working squarely against you. When you are dissociating yourself with a group, you are out of necessity weakening social bonds with yourself and remaining members. (You’ve essentially put yourself in an outgroup and then tried to ask the old ingroup to do things differently.) And the weakening of those bonds (however slight) mean they’re actually less likely to listen to you when you’re leaving than if you gave feedback while still viewed as a committed member.
I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. But we tend to work that way, as social animals.