Tue. Jul 23rd, 2019

You suck. I suck. Everyone sucks. Why Social Media Makes Us Mean.

We don’t run into too many jerks in person, so why does it seem like every time we open Facebook or Instagram we’re hit with an argument or someone being blatantly unkind to their fellow humans? It turns out there are several psychological reasons for why we (and yes that includes ‘you’ sometimes) become a-holes on social media.

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A Disconnect From Societal Repercussions

Social forums aren’t real life conversations and neither are the repercussions for misbehaving. The computer screen shields people from the negative consequences of offending someone in person. If you get nasty with your grandma at Thanksgiving, she will likely raise her voice, call you by your first and middle name, or even opt to not give you dessert (the horror!).

That doesn’t feel good to the person on the receiving end, or anyone who witnesses it happen. A picture is worth a thousand words, but a stern look from Nana is worth a million. On the opposite end, a few nasty words on a computer screen directed at you, no matter how vitriolic, don’t really hurt that much. In turn, we often don’t restrain ourselves from spewing negativity towards others because we don’t believe it will do much damage.

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The Self Esteem Paradox

Decades ago when a 16 year old got their driver’s license, they could call up a few friends and get some kudos and hoorays. Today, they post a selfie of themselves outside the DMV and get 400 likes and comments. Getting a license is a big life moment, but social media is making a lot of the small milestones we experience feel much bigger to people because of the constant attention and congratulation happening at scale.

All this adulation is pumping up egos and leading many to have less self control when criticizing others, people they perceive to not be as impressive, intelligent, or attractive as themselves.

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Mob Mentality and Choice Paralysis

Despite your own judgment, it’s easier to pile onto a negative conversation when lots of other people are telling you it’s ok. When a celebrity or politician does something stupid, why do so many of us feel the need to comment on it versus just ignore it? This wasn’t something that happened a decade ago, but social media increases the frequency of making this choice to a daily occurrence.

Every day there’s a new heated discussion that many of us can get sucked into. We constantly get pushed to choose and share how we feel about a certain topic because it’s the easiest way to stay relevant with everyone else who is talking about the same exact thing. See ‘Donald Trump.’

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Pushing Other Down Lifts Us Up (In Our Heads)

Why do we watch, “Real Housewives of Whatever” get into fistfights, or gossip about which coworker will get fired soon? It’s the same reason that bullies pick on others: pushing other people down temporarily pushes us up. When we insult or criticize someone on social media, we’re reinforcing amongst ourselves that our lives are better.

Our insecurity or flaws still exist, but at least they’re not as bad as the person we’re getting into a spat with. Since the positive feelings of putting others down are often brief, this kind of behavior turns into a frequent pattern that attempts to become a steady flow of numbness to our own issues.

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We Really Dislike Patterns Being Broken

On many social networks (Facebook), you are continually served content that you’re predicted to like. Facebook has an algorithm that does this because it wants you to spend more time on Facebook. When that gets broken or interrupted by opposing thoughts, people lash out. When patterns (beliefs) we subscribe to our abruptly called into question, we defend those patterns and often resort to negativity to get the point across faster.

Keep reading:

https://socialmediaweek.org/blog/2016/05/suck-suck-everyone-sucks-social-media-makes-us-mean/

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