Social media considered harmful, part 2

If a stranger walks up to you the street and punches you in the nose, that person is labeled as crazy. But if a stranger performs the equivalent act on-line, that is simply considered rude behavior. The first person might end up in an institution. The second person we just call a troll and shrug our shoulders.

How did we get to this place? Why do so many people on-line come out swinging at total strangers? My best guess is that it’s a way of dealing with feelings of fear and helplessness.

Before the advent of social media, if you were feeling helpless or scared, you would generally turn to the people in your everyday life — your family, your clergy, perhaps a neighbor. These were people you actually knew.

But now there is an easier way. You can go on-line, vent your frustrations, put on a fictional persona, act out all you want. You can avoid ever confronting feelings of helplessness or fear. In fact, you can feel that you have replaced them, through aggressive and inappropriate interactions with strangers, by an illusory feeling of power.

I’m not saying *everyone* does this. Far from it. Most people understand the limits of social media, just as most people understand the limits of alcohol use.

So the underlying problem isn’t social media itself. The real problems lie elsewhere.

Social media merely exposes those problems. But in doing so, it creates new problems of its own. More tomorrow.

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