The Social Media Virus

phone on a desk

Why did social media become a platform for rage and hate?

For me, being social means to interact with other people on an intelligent, reasonable, and pleasant level. In the old days, that would involve stimulating conversation, games, jokes and laughs, and a good old time. We don’t (generally at least) go to dinner parties or meet friends to fight with them or to abuse them, do we? 

So why is it that social media, a platform for everyone to express their views, news, feelings, and thoughts, has become a platform of attack, bullying, and hate? Wasn’t the idea behind social media for us all to connect and enjoy our freedom of expression and contribute our news, the way we see it, to the world? 

Why is it that there is so much abuse, rudeness, accusations, personal attacks, defamation of character, bullying, and pure hate happening daily on social media? Why is it that if you post a comment, your views, or even repost someone else’s, you run the risk of being slammed by random people. 

Did Facebook and Co set it up like this on purpose? So people can attack each other, without the risk of being attacked physically, because they are hiding behind a computer somewhere far away? I struggle to understand this phenomenon.

For those of you using social media, which today is most of us, I’m sure you came across this problem and know what I mean. It becomes frustrating, sometimes worrying and hurtful to many. So why do it? Let’s analyze:

Manners.

I was raised to be respectful towards others, towards everyone for that matter. To not be rude and shout profanities at people. I raised my children that way too, and my children are the kindest and most gentle kids. It’s called having manners and respecting others and their views. 

The questions I have are: 

Did most people’s manners go down the toilet or did they never have any? 

Why do they get so angry and aggressive?

How come people are so quick to judge and accuse others?

Where has conversation, tolerance, and reason gone? 

Are we not supposed to listen to others’ points of view, and think, talk, argue our views, politely? 

Undoubtedly, one person shouldn’t act as police, judge, and jury, all in one? 

Why is this type of “hate behavior” tolerated and accepted by the big social media players?

There is an answer to the last question, that part I’m quite sure about.

Education or Intelligence?

Is it merely a lack of education, intelligence, or both. I suppose it can be either or all of the above, depending on the person and circumstances. Or is it frustration and anger? Which is worse? 

Either way, it’s a real sad state of affairs that people are so abusive to each other on social media. Think about what society would look like if we all behaved that way and in public? 

Examples.

At your local supermarket:

You buy a piece of steak, and the person next to you is a vegan, who immediately screams at you, calling you an f….ing this and that, animal murderer, etc. That’s happened to me on social media. 

At a bar:

You are at a bar talking with a friend about politics, and someone who disagrees with your views overhears you and starts screaming at you, calling you everything under the sun. I’m sure that or similar has happened to most along the way. 

How nice would that be? I think we would soon have chaos and anarchy on the streets if we everyone would behave that way in public, but on social media, it’s okay?! 

To be honest…

We do have a lot of this horrific behavior going on in public already. But again, mostly in a protected space. That space is called a car. It’s the same thing as social media. These folks are abusing others while hiding in the safety of their car. 

It’s incredible what people get up to while driving, the nastiness, threats, and visually gesturing attacks can be frightening. Would these people behave that way if they meet you on the street, in a bookstore, school, or restaurant? I don’t think so. 

The social media virus problem.

It seems the problem is generally underlying anger, disappointment, resentment of others, and frustration about one’s situation or shortcomings, plus the lack of self-confidence and emotional intelligence. 

These attributes often lead to a lack of self-control. Unleashing these emotions on others is a reaction to their situation, and often the only way they have left to vent, to feel some sort of satisfaction. Sadly, achievement lies in putting others down, which is a short term pleasure, and will only build more anger. 

What’s the cause?

Whatever has caused certain people to behave this way on social media or in a car, we cannot know. But, we do know that this behavior boils down to personal problems and fears

Attacking others on social media, a car, or anywhere, is neither helpful for the attacker nor the attackee. It wreaks people’s days, it causes fear and emotional stress, and it creates a massive overload of cortisol production, which rapidly is pumped to your heart. 

woman sitting alone
Pain caused by others is not pleasant.

Cortisol is our fight or flight hormone, our warning system, and its purpose is to alert us to protect us from danger. Too much cortisol (stress) damages the heart and can lead to heart disease and heart attacks.

Social Media, primarily Facebook, and Twitter are the main culprits. These platforms are quick to lock an account for “violating” their “terms of service” which mostly is something about your advertising copy, or how you may (or they believe you to be) gaining followers (hugely benign). 

However, they openly allow, and I believe they encourage people to attack each other on all kinds of levels. Why? It feeds the addiction, the revenge attitude, and the “I will put you straight” thinking. I think Facebook thrives on this type of behavior, which is why they don’t attempt to shut it down, as they should! 

The solution?

The solution, as always, is simple and complicated. 

Simple; because the social media platforms could add profanity and attacks to be against their terms and conditions, which would result in automatic shut down if you start abusing another person. 

Quite a simple concept really, one that has existed in society for a long time if you think about it. If someone abuses you badly enough for you to feel threatened, you will report that person to the police. The police will warn the person, tell them to stop, and if they don’t, they will end up in jail! It’s that simple. 

Complicated; because there is a lot of anger out there, people are aggressive and short-tempered because of their life situation, which is a much much larger problem of society. An issue that most don’t care or like to think about. That problem runs very deep and is far harder to fix than Facebook blocking an account. 

I hope that Facebook and Co take note, and sooner than later, implement this strategy, and that we can as a society can show more compassion and empathy towards others. Maybe, just maybe, somewhere down the line, we will become a gentler society, on and off social media? 

I hope so.

Thanks for reading. I look foreward to your comments and questions.

Rob

Former Olympic Athlete & Certified Health Coach

“It is my mission to educate people on how to lose weight, how to build a healthy, strong heart, body, and mind, supporting a longer life.”

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