By Meriem Lahrizi
By Meriem Lahrizi
Rabat – Recently, people have gone into hyper-IT-protective mode. Everyone has become, more than ever, keener on protecting their laptops, mobile phones, iPods, iPads, and other tech gadgets with covers and cases. But as their IT-protective mode increases their heart-protection mode is alarmingly decreasing.
Rudeness on social media is rampant, and it’s on the rise. As I mull over few pages and users’ comments, I wonder if people are getting more disrespectful or is it just becoming easier for it to be publicized? We should be asking ourselves why people have become ruder in the last few years, especially in the online world?
It is indisputable that the recent revolutions, coups, and all the forms of manifestations have had an impact on people’s self-expression, self-control, and sensitivity to difference. Some countries did not even need a political change to change morally. Social media and TV channels did the job.
Many Arab countries are undergoing a serious problem of bullying in newscasts. TV presenters and guests are exchanging insults and nearly come to blows everyday about politics, sports, and all sorts of programs, including satirical ones. In the end, viewers consciously or unconsciously take positions depending on their TV-channel or Facebook-page affiliation to eventually take over and report what they have memorized and sometimes fling insults at whoever disagrees with them and social media is arguably the best platform for that. Even fans of a celebrity they have never known would uncritically attack whoever comments against their idol.
Ironically, while social media are rife with positive comments and compliments, people tend to criticize others at the same rate. Everyday we see a bunch of texts and comments of praise and encouragement on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube… etc. On social media, all ladies are beautiful, all guys are handsome, all kids are cute and all shots are professionally taken that one can barely talk about measures.
Most people present an enhanced image of themselves on social media. “This positive image—and the encouragement we get, in the form of “likes,” explains Columnist Elizabeth Bernstein, “—boosts our self-esteem. And when we have an inflated sense of self, we tend to exhibit poor self-control”. “Think of it as a licensing effect: You feel good about yourself so you feel a sense of entitlement,” says Keith Wilcox, assistant professor of marketing at Columbia Business School and co-author of the study. “And you want to protect that enhanced view, which might be why people are lashing out so strongly at others who don’t share their opinions.”
It has become quite common for people to comment and attack others for their opinions or choices. One would rarely spot a discussion with people civilly exchanging ideas and differing opinions and nearly everybody who experiences e-incivility responds in a negative way, in some cases overtly retaliating. People in general get less creative when they feel disrespected, and the protection a screen provides them with gives them more credit for that. Sometimes one would wonder if some are like that in real life or does hiding behind a screen make them be able to be who they really want to be or who they really are?
According to a recent research by professors at the University of Pittsburgh and Columbia Business School, browsing Facebook lowers our self-control. The study, titled “Are Close Friends the Enemy? Online Social Networks, Self-Esteem, and Self-Control,” was published in the Journal of Consumer Research and found that the effect is most pronounced with people whose Facebook networks were made up of close friends, the researchers say.
Astonishingly, Sherry Turkle, psychologist and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor of the social studies of science and technology says, “many people still forget that they’re speaking out loud when they communicate online”. People tend to feel less consequential when using their ‘smart’ sophisticated gadgets. Dr. Turkle, author of the book “Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other” notes that for Facebook, its very name is part of the problem. “It promises us a face and a place where we are going to have friends”. Then, “if you get something hurtful there, you’re not prepared. You feel doubly affronted, so you strike back.”
As a matter of fact, many friendships abruptly end after online bickering about politics, sports, or other common issues. A study released in March, 2012 by the Pew Center showed that about 18 percent of social media users have blocked, unfriended or hidden someone because of political material the person posted online. And about a third of those who have cut off social media contact with a person over politics say they have ended contact with a close friend or family member. Many others, on the other hand, prefer to ignore. Sometimes, you know you can let someone have it, but you decide to be polite because you do not want to burn the bridge or for your own inner peace.
A look at comments on Facebook shows that age or distance are no longer key variables in people’s interaction. One is more likely to address older people, former professors, or total strangers with no respect or consideration all under the guise of freedom of expression. Most people would say things to each other that they would never say face to face including criticism. That’s how social media has become also a good measure to know a person, their degree of self-control, and heart-protection mode and for some to decide about Mr or Ms Right.
Just recently, I came across ToneCheck. It’s a plug-in for e-mail program that makes sure one is being polite. On its website, it says that it “allows you to do a quick once over check of your message to prevent you from accidentally saying something that you might regret”. It seems a programmer could be now better at monitoring our language, emotional status, and heart protection mode but do people really regret what they say on social media? Then, why rudeness and disrespect are augmenting?
I find it a little sad that people spend more time getting ?digitally enhanced photos and posts to create the self they want to share more than the time they spend to watch over what they say and how careful they are in addressing others even behind a screen. How far have people gone into hyper-IT-protective mode and how pluralism, respect, and ‘heart protection’ are more and more endangered by social media inertia?
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