In this digital age, social media has become a vital part of our everyday lives. Our phones are the first and last thing that most of us check on a daily basis and the internet has completely rewired the way that we not only treat ourselves, but also our peers, strangers and loved ones.
Despite a large sum of young people today proving to be more progressive than the generations that came before them, there is still a large elephant in the corner of the digital room — we have become far more emboldened to mistreat others.
Social media acts as a breeding ground for trolls, problematic comedy, controversy, and harmful interaction. We seem to have disregarded empathy: rudeness and entitlement have become our default setting. On platforms meant for people to share thoughts, ideas and information, we share misinformation, bully others and spread insensitive material.
While one can’t blame technology for the lack of compassion that already exists within many people, one can question what it is about the internet that makes us feel as though it is acceptable to perpetuate toxic behaviors.
Anonymity is one factor. A study by the Department of Communication at Stanford University found a link between one’s state of anonymity and their behavior. Not only are people more likely to show aggression in anonymous situations, but they are also more likely to portray anti-normative and antisocial behavior.
It is easy to treat people in an unpleasant manner when you can hide behind a screen and deny accountability for your unpleasant actions. Social media has not only given us a mask to don while we post, but it is also a platform to feel as though our opinions matter.
“People feel they have to share their opinions on everything, everywhere, at all times, even if backed up by scant knowledge,” Danny Wallace, the author of “F*** You Very Much: The Surprising Truth About Why People Are So Rude,” said.
It is true that when you put something online in a public forum, you subject yourself to the court of public opinion. However, not everything needs to be commented on, especially by a commentator who is not willing to consider the fact that the person they are making a spectacle out of has feelings.
Alongside the aforementioned factors, we seem to have forgotten the proper way to treat others. Rather than treating others the way that we would want to be treated, we choose performative impudence for the sake of a like or retweet.
It is important to remember that when your device turns off and you are forced to look into the black mirror, you are truly a reflection of how you treat those around you.