Social media makes the ordinary person feel like a celebrity. That comes with its ups... and equally its horrible downs.
With all of the media surrounding the tragic loss of Charlotte Dawson to depression and bullying recently, I thought it was time to analyse the real "why this happens" factor about this whole situation.
This isn't an examination into depression and suicide, but more of a look at social media and this ever-growing trend of what I'm dubbing 'social cruelty'- i.e.: people that use social media as a platform for obsessive hate.
Now, I'm an advocator of freedom of speech and I certainly want to avoid the typical Australian 'nanny-state', knee-jerk response of 'ban it all', but perhaps if people stopped and thought about the real WHY factor behind all of this, we may be able to get a clearer insight into how such social media hate manifests itself so aggressively and frequently in today's online world.
First, and example.
I listen to Kyle and Jackie O in the morning, and despite being the number one ranking radio show during the breakfast segment of Sydney radio, the show is not without its haters. That's fine- everyone has an opinion and sometimes Kyle rubs people the wrong way (mind you, mostly before they even actually listen to him, instead choosing to simply copy-paste their 'judgement' from other biased sources, but I digress), however nothing is more confronting than their 'social meanies' segment: where they read out the incredibly hateful comments directed toward them on their social media sites.
My gosh, some of the ridiculous, scathing statements people post without a second thought are just beyond black-heart crazy, and in response, Kyle couldn't have said it better: "if you are a keyboard warrior that spends your time spreading hate on social media, you are simply a loser". I mean, there were people on their Facebook page calling their newsreader, the lovely Krista Thomas, fat (which, might I add, she certainly ISN'T), when in fact, you click on that hater's profile and... let's just say, they are far from slender.
Truth be told, I've been there myself! I write music and books that are in the public eye and have experienced the nasty comments and completely unnecessary feedback first-hand. It's sometimes a very bitter pill to swallow, ESPECIALLY when it relates to a product of your own creativity, where you've invested your time, heart and passion into creating something unique... only for someone to say (and I quote) "This song is the shittest offense to my ears that I thought was possible. Thank gosh the girl in the video is worth a poke." (I laugh now!!! But at the time... ouch).
This made me realise something.
The real WHY to this social cruelty trend lies in the human need behind social media. Social media makes the ordinary person feel like a celebrity. That's it- I said it. And, let's face it, it's the truth. We love the high-flying celebrities and how they always look good, and are always involved in wonderful, glamorous, out-of-our-reality activities, and now, with Facebook, we 'normal-folk' have our own publicity platform for others to see us!
With social media, we can literally show people every event in our lives that would otherwise have been never seen by anyone outside of your immediate circle. With today's social media, complete strangers and 'online friends' can see, like and even comment on every moment of our life.
So, here is comes... the WHY.
The dark twin to publicity is judgement. Or more specifically in this case, jealousy. By putting your life right in front of other 'ordinary' people, they can start to dislike their own situation and become envious of your life. Despite the most innocent of intentions, the proud photos of your new car, the status announcement of your new promotion, or the karaoke videos from your birthday party shenanigans all get shared and delivered to everyone you're connected to.
Everyone only posts the absolute highlights of their lives and, let's be honest, we're all guilty of the sin of jealousy and even the burning desire to be competitive when we see people being or doing things we want to do or be.
What's the number one human defensive response to that kind of jealousy? You guessed it: hate and spite. It's online 'tall-poppy' syndrome in its purest form.
And, worse still, by placing your content online for everyone to see, those little "reply", "rate" or "comment" buttons give absolutely anyone a direct way to leave absolutely any comment they chose. Some people may hate silently... but more and more, people are starting to be far more upfront and aggressive on social media.
I'm not saying everyone is hateful, nor am I saying social media is bad- I love social media. Also, I'm not saying everyone has to hold hands and be happy-happy-joy-joy, as that's just not realistic. However I am saying that, if you're prepared to elevate your status to become a pseudo-celebrity on social media by advertising your private life out in the public eye, you have to be prepared to cop the ferocity of the public's full scope of emotions, and because they're in the safety of their homes and behind a screen, they're not too worried about giving you their entire, unedited version of their feelings without a filter.
A thick skin is required now to be part of social media and, for most, they may not be prepared for what awaits them in the online world.
To the haters: next time you think about leaving a horrible comment, know that the person will more-than-likely see it, and remember the words your mother used to tell you: if you've got nothing nice to say, don't click 'comment'.
To the victims: you'll know when feedback is genuine, and when it's simply out of spite. Take comfort in the fact that most negativity is fueled by their jealousy for you. Don't pay attention and for GOODNESS SAKE, block them!!! There are millions of other people more worthy of your time!