The Internet is full of bullies today. One such person constantly makes negative political statements on nearly everything our shared “friend” posts – no matter what the topic of the post is. He says that he does it to enlighten his friend and to help his friend to look at the world differently. His claims are always that it is out of love. The problem is that it is never presented in a loving way. His comments are simply hate – nothing more.
When this person posts, he rarely will offer any supporting facts. You see, facts aren’t a big thing on the Internet. Facts, according to these bullies, are for someone else to find. It is much easier for people to just blast out an opinion or an inflammatory statement that they think will anger people or cause controversy. If challenged, these people will often change the topic or bring up some completely unrelated “fact,” or revert to name-calling or personal attacks.
This behavior can be called “Hit and Run.” The person hits the Internet with some statement. Then, they wait for someone to take the bait so that they can hit again and again. When it becomes clear that they are losing the argument or not getting the person angry enough, they go on a more personal attack. At that point, they often disappear unless you give them the anger and hatred they desire.
This behavior is unhealthy for the individuals and for the world overall. It can only lead to negativity and hatred. Yet, it occurs 24/7 365 days of the year. The question is, “Why?”
The Internet is the perfect forum for trolls or people that want to spread hate because they aren’t really connected to the people. Without that connection, it is easy to say hateful things. There are no obvious consequences and there are always more people to attack. Even in the case of the so-called friend, there is distance and I am guessing no real connection. I assume the shared friend doesn’t unfriend or block him simply because the shared friend is a good, caring person.
Even people that don’t set out to spread negativity, tend to say things online that they would ever say in person. Often they share thoughts and feelings that they would never say to your face. This is especially true in closed groups where they don’t think their actual friends and family will see their posts. Again, it is often a hit and run where the person is “devastated, just devastated,” as Blanche on the Golden Girls would say. It is followed by a lot of conversation, often supporting statements for the person that’s been devastated. Then, the person is off and you never hear from them again until the next time they are devastated. Another hit and run with no real connection.
It is no wonder that people have this behavior. They are simply mimicking the news media that throws out a headline without providing the full story or the promised follow up. They, like the news media, are also desperately seeking to be relevant. It is proven in psychology that people will seek negative attention if they aren’t getting positive attention because negative attention is better to the human psyche than no attention at all.
So, stay connected to people. Whatever you do, don’t make all your connections through an electronic device. And, when interacting with others online, ask yourself, “Is this how I would behave in person if I were to have a conversation with someone?”
Share your information, your thoughts, and your feelings, but consider your approach. Are your interactions based in love, anger, hate, facts, or something else? Consider what you gain from your interactions. Remember that although you may never know about it, people will react to your words and your approach.
In that light, it is okay to stand up to online bullies when you feel you must, but don’t let them intimidate you. If you decide to respond, interact with them respectfully with facts and in a positive, loving manner. When possible, just ignore them. It may not stop their hit and run behavior, but you will be more mindful of your mental and emotional well-being, and they will likely seek a more easy target.
And, if we all start giving these bullies loving attention, which is likely what they truly desire, maybe their efforts to attack others will diminish over time. Thus, making the world a better place for everyone!