• Patrick McAndrew

Our Online Evil Twins

Do you ever scroll through your newsfeed and find some long post spewing unkind things left and right?  This is not unusual in the worlds of Facebook and Twitter.  Its also not unusual to come from people who seem like very pleasant individuals in real life.

Wendy Rose Gould recently wrote a post on Head Space titled, “Nice IRL, mean online: the reasons why we act differently behind a screen.”  She describes primarily three reasons why we become so aggressive online:

  • False closeness and reduced boundaries: We see our online “friends” as close and are therefore more at the ready to unload our frustrations with the world or a particular person. While these tangents would usually be reserved for an inner circle of close friends in person, the online world is our oyster when we are behind a screen and our aggressive comments often come off as plain mean.

  • Greater sense of control and power: No one can argue with us right away. No one can interrupt our post as we are writing it.  We have complete control over expressing our opinion, which is a good thing in many ways, but at the same time denies the opportunity for healthy discussion.  And if we don’t like someone’s comment on our post?  DELETE!

  • Some people are mean: No matter if in front of a screen or in front of a person, some of us are just mean people. That’s not to say we can’t change.  Often times, if we are mean it’s because something else is going on, usually a personal problem or affliction and we take it out on others.  This is still the case in the online world.

Overall, I don’t get bothered by much.  I don’t like being late to scheduled appointments.  Sometimes really loud noises throw me off (LOUD NOISES!!).  People being really mean and disrespectful?  I don’t really understand that.  Perhaps it is my ignorance, but I do not like when people are mean and disrespectful.

It’s human nature to become upset.  Arguments are natural if two people disagree on a certain topic.  Occasionally some mean comments may be thrown around, which are always uncalled for, but can quickly become resolved when realizing our own stupidity.  But being mean on a regular basis?  That takes SO MUCH EFFORT!

It’s really easy being nice.  If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it.  They feel good, you feel good, everyone feels good!  It’s not difficult at all to find a trait about someone that you like.  Even for people we do not particularly care for, a compliment here and there will work wonders to their annoyingness in your life.

People are mean online because they do not emotionally see the repressions of their harsh words.  The online world is so vast that it feels like we can say and do whatever we want.  It is for these reasons that “trolls” go on a rampage, insulting everything and everyone that they don’t agree with.

It can be difficult to step back and understand that this aggression is coming from a dark place.  This individual is likely very insecure and is having their own issues when it comes to self-esteem.  In order to lift themselves up, they have to put someone else down.  If we do this in person, we quickly get labeled as the classic bully or the awful, stick-up-the-tush boss.  When we are harsh online, we don’t realize that we are still being seen in this way because we are not reading the faces of those reading our posts.

In the online market, businesses often refer to “social branding.”  Especially in social media, we are branding ourselves in a certain way based on the people we hang out with, the articles we post, and the comments we make.  It’s important to take a step back and really analyze our online behavior.  Are we proud of what we say online?  Would we say the same thing in person?  Our words have a powerful effect not just on the community we speak to, but on ourselves as well.  And words, whether pleasant or harsh, always have a way of coming back to us in the same way we send them out.

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