The home of Uncommon Sense: Providing Clarity, Promoting Intelligence

What Social Media Does To Us

I recently posted something fairly innocuous on social media. I was commenting on the beauty and the virtue of a certain edifice of sacred significance, a place of profound meaning and enlightenment. There shouldn’t have been anything controversial about what I said.

And yet, a certain small but deeply troubled demographic that lurks among us saw that as their opportunity to go onto my platform and spit on what I had said. They were few in number but they were loud and strident in their rhetoric. What they said was no more absurd and off-putting than if they had been at a wedding, and someone commented to the groom that his bride was stunningly beautiful and had never looked happier, and 3 or 4 troubled naysayers in the group recoiled at that and claimed, within earshot of the groom, the bride was actually not all that special, was kind of chubby in places, that her wedding dress didn’t really compliment her in any way, and that no one with any talent did her make up that day.

Can you imagine some goons saying something so crass?

That was analogous to what that small handful of people said about my social media post. One of them was so gross and filthy in his rhetoric that I actually blocked him, something I almost never do.

That got me thinking about human nature.

And those thoughts caused me to write a post a few days later spelling out my observations from that earlier social media experience. I pointed out that there are troubled souls out there who simply cannot help themselves – they have to throw cold water on certain topics that seem to trigger them. They do not have the self-control or the inner peace to simply remain quiet, to live and let live. They thrive on chaos and contention.

I was aware that my posting such thoughts might well trigger the very people to whom I was referring to come out of their enclaves and go a little crazy with their counter-perspectives. And I was prescient. They did exactly that.

As if I had kicked the hornet’s nest, that post, as of this writing, has garnered 306 comments and 71 emoji reactions. (For context, I released the post a day and a half ago). I don’t recall ever posting anything that garnered anywhere near that much traffic – and I’ve posted far more controversial things in the past. Of the 71 emoji reactions, 65 of them (that’s 92%) were strongly supportive and in favor of what I had posted. Of the 306 comments, 74 of them were written by me, as I kept up with almost everyone else who posted. A number of those 306 comments expressed strong agreement with me. But a large number did not, and it is those postings that I find fascinating.

Very few of those individuals who posted contrarian responses said anything of substance and none of them know me personally. Most of them were mean-spirited diatribes written by the exact types of people I had written about. Others, mostly written by women, were purely hysterical, shrill screeches of disdain, call me all sorts of names or assigning all sorts of claims to my character: I am, if I was to believe these women, mean, cruel, vicious, unable to show empathy for those who wrote the vile things on my earlier post, incapable of understanding what these poor souls must go through, the fact that what I wrote proves I am worse than the worst of them, that I should just “shut up” (on my own Facebook wall, no less), that I’m stupid, I am full of hate, I’m a hypocrite, and one of my favorites: a woman who said that she would rather spend time with Satan himself than with me. I hadn’t heard that one before.

The issue I posted about is not my concern here.

What interests me for purposes of this column is my hunch that the people who shed all pretense of self-control and engaged in outright lunacy on social media would not likely ever conduct themselves in such a manner if we were in a public place having a conversation on the same topic.

What is it about social media that causes some people to react with apoplectic rage, with sheer, unbridled derangement, but comport themselves in a reasonable manner when in a face-to-face encounter on the same subject? Why does social media cause some people to lose complete control and any sense of decorum or proportion when online, but in-person encounters tend to put social restraints on those same people (thankfully)?

I’m not sure I know. I may have thought it had to do with the anonymity of social media, which causes some people to show their darker side, perhaps their true colors. But I don’t believe these people are anonymous, as their names are showing and I presume most if not all of them reveal their actual names. Do they walk around with pent up psychosis which they finally release once they let loose on social media? Or is something else in play?

By the way, I intend to do some statistical and psychoanalytic analysis of that whole episode and post my findings and the lessons learned on the same social media platform soon.

And I can just hear the hornets buzzing already, having not learned a thing, but waiting for their next arena on which to swarm and raid. They are nothing if not predictable.

Some may conclude I will post such conclusions simply to stir things up, and that if I know the lunatics are going to attack, to stand down and go dark. But while I am not posting my findings for the purpose of tweaking or annoying anyone, I simply do not make decisions about what to post and what not to post based on whether it angers someone. I post what I believe is important and interesting, not based on parameters that others demand I adhere to.

Ara Norwood is a multi-faceted and results-oriented professional. Spanning a multiplicity of disciplines including leadership, management, innovation, strategy, service, sales, business ethics, and entrepreneurship. Ara is also a historian, having special expertise on the era of the founding of our republic.
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