Always, Katie: 4 Ways Social Media Fuels Hypersensitivity

Friday, January 22, 2016

4 Ways Social Media Fuels Hypersensitivity

I posted on Facebook recently about a meme that has been bothering me as it makes its way onto my timeline about five or six times a day.  Unsurprisingly, those who have loved or shared that meme jumped to defend it and labeled me as "too sensitive" or "too easily offended."

It's a sentiment I see a lot, the idea that "people nowadays" are so easily offended and just need to relax.  I do think that most of the people who claim this can probably also be offended if the right trigger is hit; they're just lucky that their triggers aren't as popular online as some others ;-)  

So why is everybody (myself included) so danged easy to offend (or hurt, anger, etc)?  Why do we have such strong reactions to things we see online? 

Social media saturates us.  

If I had seen that meme just once, I probably would've rolled my eyes and moved on.  If the idea behind it wasn't one I see hashed and rehashed on all platforms frequently, I probably wouldn't have such a tender spot over it.  But it's frequent.  Constant.  The issue is never not in front of my face.  Chances are, if something you say hurts someone, it's not the first time they've heard or read it recently.

Social media emboldens us.  

We've all seen Internet trolls... they make up fake names and post deliberately provocative comments on articles or posts, and they feel safe in their rudeness - and sometimes flat-out hatefulness - because they hide behind the relative anonymity of their keyboard.  But what about us normal people?  Do we still say things online that we probably wouldn't say in real life? Or do we approach subjects with less tact and caution than we would in person? Could it be because we can't see the faces on the other side of the screen and how they are hurt, confused, angered, disgusted by the things we say?

Social media widens our circle.

As a stay-at-home mom, my daily in-person interactions are pretty limited.  I spend lots of time interacting with two or three people, and may have encounters with another handful of people if I run an errand or two.  You may interact with dozens of people at work, or in your other daily routines, but I know very few of us have even brief in-person encounters with as many people as we encounter online. Through various social media platforms, I am directly connected with thousands of people, and indirectly with many more (like when a friend comments on their friend's status and it shows up in your newsfeed).  Just in sheer volume alone, we're going to encounter more offended people than generations who did not use social media did.

And finally..

Social media makes us offensive.

In the past, I've done a lot of talking online about my periods and attempts at conception.  This is DEFINITELY not considered polite dinner conversation, or something you talk about with people you barely know, or something to be talked about where strangers may overhear!  Same goes with all kinds of other things we share online.  A BIG example is politics.  It used to be common etiquette to keep your political leanings to yourself, but how often do your Facebook friends post memes or share articles about their favorite candidate (or critical things about a politician they disagree with)?  Mine do it all.the.time!  Both sides of the aisle.  All.the.time.  And because social media emboldens us, some even engage in name-calling of those they disagree with, while having to know that some of the people they are calling names are on their friends list.  So if you start to think how much more often you see or hear someone expressing their offense or hurt, consider how much more often WE are being offensive.  Because social media widens our circle to include more offended people, consider that it also increases the number of people with whom you're breaking the standards of polite conversation other generations followed.  And because social media saturates us, think how many times a day this combination occurs.

Do I think social media is bad? Of course not.  For one thing, that would be a stupid thing for a blogger to say ;-)  But also, a widened circle has meant more support for me when going through rough times.  Being braver behind my keyboard has allowed me to process my experiences and disseminate some pretty helpful information (if I do say so myself) in a way that I may not have felt free to do without social media.  And it has given me the chance to "talk" out some of my thoughts about this current phenomenon :-)

So what do you think?  Are people this generation more sensitive, or is that an artificial construct due to the changing ways we interact with each other?  Or some other thing I'm missing? :-) I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!
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  1. This is so interesting and TRUE. It's crazy the way social media fuels hypersensitivity.. and the ways we feel emboldened to express things we never would in person. Thanks for sharing and putting this thoughtful post together!

  2. What an interesting take on social media.
    I definitely have started realizing this more and more.

    xoxo, Jenny

  3. Great post, and I must say that I agree with the point you made about people using less tact and being less cautious with what they say or put out on their social media pages. Society use to be a lot different in general. You would have never heard someone openly discuss many of the controversial topics that are out there in public conversation now. I still do find it odd, though, when individuals will post something one day and then the very next day completely contradict themselves by commenting with something ugly or negative on another person's post concerning the same subject. I really do wish people would use more wisdom before saying or doing things that they wouldn't necessarily do in person. Very interesting read, thanks for sharing!

  4. Totally agree - I might ignore something if I something once but if it was popping up in my newsfeed every hour, it sure is going to annoy me, there's only so many times you can ignore and move on. Great take on pros and cons of our social media today!
    xx, Kusum |

  5. I think there is a big issue because so many people will say things online that they would never say in person. I try to be very real on social media and if I wouldn't say it to the person's face I won't say it online.


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