Why Social Media Has Made Us All Bad People

Over the last few weeks there’s been a call on social media, mainly Twitter, to stop hurling abuse and insults at people, even if they do not agree with your particular world view. It was a good idea, coming from a good place on that back of a tragic suicide. Unfortunately, it lasted all of about 5 seconds. There were multiple people calling for such kindness and tolerance whilst also calling the likes of Piers Morgan a cunt in the same tweet. The hypocrisy ‘jumps out’, as people tend to say these days.

Anyway, the entire situation did provoke thought on behavioural norms online. I’ve talked extensively about the cost of words, and how much weigh they carry before (Check it here). As Stephen Fry put it in a interview recently, it used to be that if you didn’t like someone, you’d say it to a family member over the kitchen table and that’d be the end of it. Now, however, we have the power to directly message anyone, and tell them just how we feel about them. I don’t think we truly understand the power of that, nor do we realise the weight our words can carry. We don’t realise the power behind our words because not all words are created equally. By this I mean that our words don’t always hold meaning and can often be meaningless. That causes us to dilute the power of words in our own heads and we forget that our words can directly influence and affect the people around us.

Twitter, specifically, is a medium that people use to be exceptionally abusive, purposefully hurtful, and outright intolerant. This is a jarring contradiction to the ethos of many who use it, as the demographic of Twitter users leans heavily towards the progressive, and tolerant types. However, I don’t think Twitter is filled with poisonous people, but rather, Twitter is a place people can go to be poisonous, and get away with it. We live in a time where people seek outrage, and feast on the opportunity to have a popular complaint go viral and gain them some much needed clout and attention. Because this is the goal, intolerance has become a self-feeding loop on Twitter, and instead of simply ignoring things that we disagree with, we feel we must lash out and berate people for holding beliefs that aren’t in line with our own, and we forget entirely, where by purpose of by accident, that the persons behind these beliefs are people. They are human beings, and that doesn’t change whether you wish it to or not.

In a society that seeks tolerance and acceptance above all else, we have ,quite ironically, become more intolerant than ever before. Although this intolerance may be primarily online, it still speaks to the collective mindset that has become rampant.

The only advice that seems to make sense to me is to spend less time on social media. Don’t spend hours scrolling needlessly. Social media can be a very effective tool to promote your brand or image, or whatever the case may be. Use it for this purpose, but try and not let social media influence your behaviour. If you spend too much time on social media without self-control you’ll find yourself becoming bitter, resentful and intolerant. These things are designed to make that happen, so that you rage against people instead of raging against the machine.

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