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  • Woke editors

Virtual Viciousness

By R.S. Drain

If there is anything that social media has revealed to the everyday person; it is that there is no right way to be human. Ironically, social media has also ushered in a new era of shameless bullying and judgement.

But how is that these two realities exist in unison?

To answer that question we first have to ask: why do people take the opportunity of anonymity to say such terrible things?

The misinterpretation of comments and their reaction is mainly due to the fact that the majority of communication is non-verbal. This means it is composed of body language such as eye contact, speech tone and language patterns. Without this information to help us process and categorise information, our minds are left to sort through the uncertain, and when you are unsure about another person's intent it often creates a negative reaction because you perceive it as a threat.

The desire for attention and ‘likes’ also weakens people’s self control and drives them to say things that they probably wouldn’t say in real life.

This rudeness and judgement then also translates to real life. The current theory is that the ability to comment your opinion on anything you see online, is why people are more likely to comment on things in real life, often in situations where their opinion is less than appreciated or inappropriate.

This rudeness isn’t just an irritance however. Danny Wallace, author of the book The Surprising Truth About Why People Are So Rude describes rudeness as a neurotoxin, a poisonous substance that negatively affects our nervous system. This can, as a result, affect our executive functions and the ways we think, act and feel. This negatively affects our memory, problem solving and concentration.

A series of 2016 studies conducted by the Journal of Applied Psychology

found that rudeness can be as contagious as the common cold. Rudeness is easily contracted, and consistent exposure to, for example, a rude coworker, can have long-lasting effects.

“When you experience rudeness, it makes rudeness more noticeable,” said lead researcher Trevor Foulk. “You’ll see more rudeness even if it’s not there.”

Image by Gerd Altmann

Fortunately, it isn’t all bad. Social Media has also opened up many avenues of tolerance and discovery. Through social media, we can see the wide variety of people, cultures, hobbies and opinions that decorate the quilt of humanity.

The findings of a study done by the University of Chicago showed that youngsters who spent more time on social networks were 50 to 80% more likely to be more flexible in their outlook towards religion and were more tolerant towards others who are from their faith but wish to practice other religions.

Everyone is given an equal voice sans celebrities, who often have the upper hand in building an audience.

Clearly, we can see that the anonymity Social Media provides builds a community in which people aren’t scared to share their opinions and judgements, whether that be in sharing their culture or trolling a youtube video.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Woke magazine.


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