Being Mean On The Internet

Recently we were speaking at a conference and someone asked what we meant by AntiSocial Media. Aside from directing them to our posts on cyber bullying, we also made the following example: AntiSocial behavior would be if we were having a conversation at a restaurant and a stranger walked up to our table and, with raised voice, said ‘I don’t agree with you and I think you’re an idiot!’ The internet is not unlike that very same example. We have all experienced a Facebook status update that was usurped by someone who took offense to what we wrote. Perhaps it was written as an inside joke to a family member or friend. Perhaps it was based on a private matter and they felt the need to post a status update. Regardless of the context of the update, the comments are irrelevant to the situation and are abusive.

Say that to my face!

Why is it so easy to be so mean on the internet? We have discussed it before but it is always worth mentioning the effects of cyber disinhibition. Our brains require physical cues to understand the reactions of the recipients of our communication. We look for signs that the message is well received by noticing a smile or an offense which is denoted by the widening of the eyes or grimacing. Without these cues, we are no longer tethered to our humanity. We are social creatures and our emotional reactions are paramount in maintaining civility. Without them, we have exactly what we have on the internet; savagery disguised as editorial rants.

Thus the rule to be human is directly linked to this next rule.

          Do not do or say anything that you would not do in real life.

If in real life you are not willing to go up to a stranger and say you disagree with them and they are idiots, do not do it on the internet!

If you do not like hurting people’s feelings in real life, then don’t do it on the net!

If you do not like people bullying others in real life, do not participate in these activities on line!

Come back tomorrow for more rules.

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