You Can Overcome Social Media Negativity: Here’s How!Nov 29, 2023
By: Elliot Nelson, Seasonal Public Relations Intern | Digital4Good
Snap. Insta. Tweet. These three words, made popular by their respective social media app, have become a daily installation (get it!) into the world we all live in. One would hope that those utilizing these apps would spread warm and positive messages, but the sad reality is oftentimes the opposite.
The hatred that social media users experience is oftentimes referred to as “social media negativity.” Shockingly, 64% of Americans, across all demographics, agree that social media is generally negative in nature (Auxier, n.d.) and leads to an environment online that’s aggressive, violent, and often dangerous to those who use it.
In this article, we’ll address social media’s intentions, how to navigate and avoid social media negativity, and the importance of disconnecting from the internet to practice self-care.
The Conceptualization of Social Media Negativity
How often have you been scrolling through your social media of choice and found a video that appears to contain the most heart-warming content: perhaps a baby kitten sneezing or a mother holding her baby for the first time? With a happy smile, you click on comments expecting to see comments of shared happiness, where you’re then greeted by hate comments, spewing aggressive verbal attacks.
It’s a sad reality; hate comments and posts containing racially offensive or culturally insensitive topics have become commonplace. Because of this, over 78% of Americans have shown that they come into contact regularly with offensive digital posts, according to a Pew Research Center report in 2017.
One of the arguably most frustrating things about this is that social media apps are failing in their job to take down hateful posts. According to the Center to Counter Digital Hate, 84% of posts related to anti-semitic sentiments were not taken down by the social media’s governing watchdogs in the three month period that the content was observed. As if not alarming enough, social media sites like Facebook had announced their new policies to properly manage, flag, and remove questionable content only a few months before the research’s time period.
The Dangers of Social Media Negativity
This hatred and negativity has pushed its way into social media’s core and continues to hurt its users from within. Conducively, the National Center for Biotechnical Information found that the daily effects of social media negativity led to “particular health outcomes like cyberbullying-related depression, body image, and disordered eating behaviors, and poor sleep quality.”
These symptoms only get worse when looking at adolescent users, whose brain psychology is still actively developing. Continued exposures to social media negativity and targeted cultural attacks can have lasting effects like self-harmful behaviors, including attempted suicide or drug overdoses.
The Faces on the Other Side
Users who tend to remain anonymous and hide behind their digital usernames often use the hate posts to feel better about their own internal conflicts. An article by Frontiers in Psychology illustrated that while these “trolls” or “keyboard warriors” demonstrate a higher level of psychopathology, the biggest motivator of their actions is often an internal battle with self-esteem, social isolation, or personal insecurities.
These “trolls,” as characterized by the Frontiers in Psychology article, normally fit under three personality categories: Narcissism: the idea of personal beauty or idealization being superior to another’s, Psychopathy: the idea of acting in dangerously emotional, physical, or mental ways, or Machiavellianism: the idea of being cunning and scheming. These three categories explain internal struggles that eventually lead to their posts and comments ending up on the Internet, affecting all others who use the sites.
Coping Tips for Mitigating Social Media Negativity
The biggest tip that I can possibly give is to disconnect your physical self and mental capabilities from social media. At the end of the day, remember that social media is just a filtered glimpse into our lives. Organizations, like the ADL, demonstrate that a large portion of online content is not hateful.
Removing yourself from the everpresent digital connection provides a chance to reflect on your usage of social media and its effects on you. Recently, I had a social media cleanse where I removed all social media apps from my phone. In a non-cliche way, it was so freeing. It also made me more grateful for the people surrounding me and those who have been portions of the process in who I’ve become.
While mindfulness exercises and disconnection work for me, it might not for you. Find your coping mechanism that combats the negativity’s impact. Examples of other strategies include the emerging style of bullet journaling, talking to health professionals like a therapist or counselors, and more.
If you aren’t able to find a strategy that separates you from social media negativity, it’s always possible to take your concerns to the source. Apps often have “report” buttons or “flagging” systems that work to take down content. A more direct method is blocking the person or commenter so that their content won’t reach you again.
Find the system of coping that works best for you in order to avoid the negativity, and you’ll find a change in both your perception and feelings.
Your Personal Initiative
Everything mentioned previously seems terrifying - impossible to wade through on your own, but you’re not alone! Visit Digital4Good + #ICANHELP for more information and resources on how to manage social media negativity through digital citizenship courses and presentations.
Although language and society is heavily rooted in “Insta, Snap, Tweet,” you can choose how to manage your usage of social media and how to keep your mental health at a high level. Together, we can overcome social media negativity!
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