Many people experience stress while on social media sites. Part of the reason for the stress relates to the comments and interactions that take place. What often starts as an innocent post often takes a turn for the worse, as commenters virtually “duke it out” regarding who is right and who is wrong. Heated arguments ensue, often filled with name calling and downright meanness. Even people who would never dream of being mean to others in face-to-face interactions take part.
Stress, Social Media, and Eye Contact
Often, mean comments online arise more from a lack of eye contact than from anonymity.
The fact is that people are meaner online than in real life. Many have blamed this on anonymity and invisibility because when you are online, no one knows who you are or what you look like. However, it has been suggested that we have a tendency to be nasty on the Internet because we do not make eye contact with those with whom we are communicating.
A recent study demonstrated this point. The subjects had to look into their partner’s eyes and predict how mean they were. When their eyes were hidden, participants were twice as likely to be hostile. Even if the subjects were both unrecognizable (with only their eyes on the screen) and anonymous, they rarely made threats if they maintained eye contact. Seeing a person’s eyes helps you understand the signals that the person is trying to send, which often fosters empathy and, therefore, more effective communications.
The Solution to Meanness
Of course, there is no way to make eye contact on social media sites. Therefore, before you post something mean, reflect and ask yourself, “How can I state my opinion in a positive way, that does not degrade or hurt others?” When you come from a place of positivity and reflect before you type, you can reduce the stress that comes from online interactions.