A mommy influencer admitted to anonymously running an account aimed at trolling fellow mom bloggers. Clemmie Hooper, the woman behind the now defunct @mother_of_daughters, was running a secret life–portraying wholesomeness in her public account, and secretly trolling her peers. Apparently, years of reading negative comments about her and her family resulted in paranoia and she attacked others so her account will look more authentic.
Kino MacGregor, a yoga influencer, says that she receives vicious emails calling her “insta-whore” and is constantly criticized for her clothing choices.
Are People Just Getting Meaner?
Nostalgia can be a comforting answer, to believe that somehow, people used to be kinder. But world wars, hate crimes, bullying–all have existed in the past. Digital technology, however, has allowed us to interact with more people closely but with a level of physical distance that emboldens us to speak with less filter.
Understanding the Medium: The Power of Quasi Anonymity
People are more likely to be aggressive, less likely to value others’ concerns and welfare, the more anonymous they are.Daniel Fessler, Ph.D. | Director of the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute
That’s what our digital presence provide: a sense of anonimity. It’s easy to make a statement or vent out with a few strokes from our keyboard. The interaction goes both ways: it doesn’t take much to share our opinions and we’re vulnerable to the opinions of billions of people online.
Not Just Aggression, But Envy
Social media makes us feel a false sense of proximity. We witness Jennifer Aniston’s Thanksgiving shindig, a neighbor’s luxury vacation, and these moments build up to form ideas about expectations and can spark envy.
Exposure can have positive effects by motivating us to do better and inspiring us, true, but what happens when we are constantly bombarded by stories of perfectly imperfect lives?
Too Close for Comfort
Ironically, this sense of proximity has led to polarization, whether it’s ideological divide or something as trivial as the rift between Kate Middleton and Megan Markle. Royal fan-feuding has reached a level that UK Magazine Hello! asked fans to be kinder to the duchesses in a campaign to lessen the vitriolic comments aimed at the two royals. The narrative is simple: if you’re a fan of Kate, you hate Meghan. The idea that proximity leads to less trust is not limited to the digital world.
People who live in urban areas where residents live closer to each other trust each other LESS than those who live in the suburbs or in rural areas.Pew Research
The knee-jerk reaction social media thrives on has little room for the gray area. Discussions are framed as a war (i.e. vegans are waging a war against meat-eaters) with two clear sides, but life is not this black and white.
Navigating the Medium: More of the Good and Less of the Bad
Digital media is fast-paced, so time for reflection can be easy to disregard. If you love social media but are aware of the negative feelings it invokes on you, know that just because the medium thrives on speed, it doesn’t mean you have to, whether you’re a content-creator or just like to browse.
A random person or a few opinions on Twitter doesn’t mean it’s popular opinion. Similarly, when you see a post you disagree with has a couple of thousand likes, it doesn’t mean that the world is against you.
The world won’t always agree with you and find ways to handle this fact. How will you react when things don’t go your way? What is worth getting involved in? What’s not? Following Ellen’s philosophy, if you read comments and you read the good, then you have to be prepared for the bad.
If your work requires you to be on social media, think less about the comments and focus on the work itself: