Have you ever argued with a friend on Facebook? Blocked or deleted them after a virtual agreement? Well, it turns out that you’re not alone. It’s actually a thing!
It doesn’t surprise me at all that relationships – whether with friends, family, lovers – have been ruined thanks to social media. According to a recent article, 78% of people surveyed have reported increased rudeness online, and most have no qualms at all about forgetting their manners in the online sphere.
Yes, online media connects people, but it is also fosters people who are less thoughtful. Think about it; it’s much easier to express an unpopular opinion or mean comment over the internet than to a person’s face. That disconnect of not being in front of them means we often end up treating them with less dignity than they deserve.
I think this is what happens: social media makes people a bit like objects, and therefore easier for us to disregard. Bear with me! For example, take the action of adding and deleting friends. Isn’t it almost object-like, how we can “gain” and “discard” friends with the click of a mouse?
There’s also the problem of gossip. Rumour and scandal is facilitated, because we have so much access to information about people we might hardly know. This makes it so much easier to be critical and judge them.
People on our social media accounts can also become a form of entertainment. They are like objects for my viewing and analysing as I please, instead of an actual person. I see this especially with the style blogs I like to look at. While most would never walk up to a girl in the street and tell her that her shoes are disgusting, on Instagram this is exactly they’ll say. And there are no apparent consequences.
You could be thinking – who cares? Why does it matter if at all? I’ll tell you why it’s scary. I did a class on genocide back in university, and every case we studied began with the victim group being constantly degraded to animal status, so that it didn’t feel so bad to kill them. Jews in World War II were often called rats, and in the Rwandan genocide the Tutsis were referred to as cockroaches. This rhetoric made their abuse acceptable, as it demoted them from human level. And to some degree, the fact that we interact with others like objects in social media, could be why we are getting ruder online.
Anyone who’s read my past posts must think I am completely anti social media. Well I’m not, believe it or not. But I do think that it’s developing and changing so fast that often ethical modes of behaviour don’t have time to catch up. As a result we should be constantly on the alert, and have a healthy criticism of the technology we use.
As for what to do to stop being impolite on social media – I think the first step would be to actually make an effort to see the important people in your life, so that your friendship doesn’t only exist in a virtual space. And perhaps we should try to spend less time on social media, so we can move away from entertaining ourselves with the lives of others.