How to Handle Web’s Cruel Side, by: S. Rosenbloom

From The New York Times that came with today’s papers today…

Anyone who has ever been online has witnessed, or been, virtually hurt by, a mean comment.

“If you’re going to be a blogger, if you’re going to tweet stuff, you better develop a tough skin,” said John Suler, a professor of psychology at Rider University in New Jersey who specializes in what he refers to as cyberpsychology.

Some sixty-nine percent of adult social media users in the United States said they “have seen people being mean and cruel to others on social network sites,” according to a 2011 report from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project.

Posts run the gamut from barbs to sadistic antics by trolls who intentionally strive to distress or provoke.  Whether you’re a celebrity author or a mom with a décor blog, you’re fair game. In the virtual world, anonymity and invisibility help us feel uninhibited.  Some people are inspired to behave with greater kindness; others unleash their dark side.  The singular goal of trolls is to elicit pain.  But those comments, while nasty, present an opportunity to learn something about ourselves.

Social scientists say we tend to fixate on the negative.  Correcting that tendency requires understanding that you are ultimately in charge.  “Nobody makes you feel anything,” Professor Suler said.  The key is managing what psychologist refer to as involuntary attention.

Just as our attention naturally gravitates to loud noises, our minds fixate on negative feedback.  Studies like “Bad is Stronger than Good,” published in 2011 in the Review of General Psychology, have shown that we respond more strongly to bad experiences and criticism, and that we remember them more vividly.  “These are things that stick in our brain,” said James O. Pawelski of the University of Pennsylvania.  “If we allow our attention to move involuntarily, that’s where it goes.”

The mind, however, can be tamed.  One way is to ask yourself if those barbs you can’t seen to shrug off have an element of truth.  If the answer is yes, Professor Suler has some advice: let your critics be your gurus.

“You can treat them as an opportunity,” he said.  Ask yourself why you’re ruminating on a comment.  “Why does it bother you?”  Professor Suler said.  “What insecurities are being activated in you?”

Perhaps a negative comment can help you learn something about yourself.

“It’s easy to feel emotionally attacked from these things,” said Bob Pozen, a lecturer at the Harvard Business School.  He said that doesn’t mean that your critics don’t have a point.

But it’s not always possible to learn something from a nasty comment.  Some are baseless; some are crass.  One way to help is to consider the writer’s motivation.

Professor Suler wrote in 2004 in the Journal Cyber Psychology & Behavior about a concept known as “the online disinhibition effect”—the idea that “people say and do things in cyberspace that they wouldn’t ordinarily say or do in the face-to-face world.”  The result can be benign (“unusual acts of kindness and generosity”) or it can be toxic: “rude language, harsh criticisms, anger, hatred, even threats,” Professor Suler said.

The latter is the realm of trolls.  If people keep this concept in mind, he said, “they will see the psychology” of the aggressors, and their comments may be easier to take—and possibly ignore.

Harsh comments can also be made to feel less potent by disputing to yourself what was said.  If, for example, someone writes, “You’re an idiot and no one likes you,” you can marshal evidence against it by reminding yourself of the obvious: You have an education, a good job, many friends.

Also, be mindful when you choose to glance at your blog or social media feeds.  In other words: Stay off Twitter if you just bombed a presentation.

Another way to stop yourself from dwelling negative feedback is to enter into what psychologists refer to as “flow”, a state in which the mind is completely engaged.  Flow can be achieved when playing a piano concerto, practicing karate, being deep in conversation with a friend.  “The toughest time is when the mind is not fully occupied,” said Professor Pawleski, who also prescribed humor as a way to deflect barbs.

Even when a person is alone, humor can be very effective.  Try reading nasty comments aloud in a goofy voice, Professor Pawelski advised, so that when your mind automatically plays back the comment it sounds absurd.

And what if you shared a couple of the good ones with friends instead of sharing the ones that hurt you?  Research shows that it takes more time for positive experiences to become lodged in our long-term memory, so it’s not just pleasurable to dwell on a compliment—it’s shrewd.

“We’re really bad, typically, as a culture about accepting compliments,” Professor Pawelski said.  “They’re meant to be taken in and really appreciated.  They’re meant to be gifts.”

And, this would eventually BE maladaptive because?  Oh yeah, it trains your mind, to DODGE every single BAD experiences in your lives, and, IF you can FACE up to the negativities in your own lives, how can you expect yourselves to be well-adapted, plus, if someone leaves a negative “note” on your weblogs, or Facebook accounts or whatever, just ignore it, and, the article is written for those without a STRONG sense of the self, meaning that those who are affected by the outside world’s opinions of them are still WAY too external (Locus of Control, anyone???), so, take THAT, Professor!  No offense, but this, is how the Q-U-E-E-N (still H-E-R-E!!!) views thing, and yes, everybody IS still entitled to her/his O-P-I-N-I-O-N-S, as this article was written, as someone’s view on the matter, and, we ALL KNOW how we should handle the differences of opinions already, don’t we?  WE R-E-S-P-E-C-T each other even IF we don’t agree with one another!

 

 

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Filed under Awareness, Bullying, Communications, Connections, Coping Mechanisms, Cost of Living, Current Events, Cyber-Bullying, Early Exposures, Expectations, Interactions Shared with the World, Lessons, Life, Maturation, Mental Health Issues, My Thoughts on Various Issues, News Stories, Nowhere Is Safe, Observations, Peer Pressures & Influences, Perspectives, Philosophies of Life, Professional Opinions, Properties of Life, Rationalization, Self-Deceptions, Self-Images, Social Awareness, Social Issues, Socialization, Story-Telling, Stupidity, Trends, Utilizing the Internet, Values, Vicious Cycle

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