The internet can be a nasty place. We pinpointed why our feeds are so bleak and upsetting in order to find ways to deal with it.
It’s no coincidence that most of what we read online is negative. It’s actually a common trend in the media that starts with news sources consciously choosing to frame information in a negative light to draw attention. And there’s a reason for that. From a psychological standpoint, we’re programmed to spot danger and avoid it. We are more likely to respond to negative emotions than positive ones. This is known as the negativity bias, and it has been statistically proven to work. Media outlets use negative superlatives as clickbait (using expressions like “backlash” and “people are mad”) to ignite our interest and drive reader and viewership. Basically, news outlets are being overtly negative on purpose, and we’re falling for it.
Social networks are full of it now too. Facebook and Twitter are battlefields of discussions on social issues where no one ever seems to win and any popular post on Instagram is likely to get as many rude and mean comments as nice ones. Why is this happening? In simple terms: it’s easier to be negative online than in real life. When we interact online, there are no cues to guide a conversation beyond text. Here are some proven ways you can deal with the negativity online to help your mental wellbeing.
There’s a freedom that comes with setting your account to private. It protects you from backlash and gives you the freedom to truly express yourself.
There’s a saying, “holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you get burned”. Choosing to not judge others will only help you. Remember that psychological tendency to focus on the bad stuff? When we are in a negative state of mind, we narrow our vision down and lose our ability to open up to diverse ideas, to understand context and perspective. We go into a constant alert mode to defend ourselves against anything that opposes us and we spiral down. So by only spreading positivity, you are ultimately doing yourself a huge favour.
Try and avoid reading negative comments. Whenever you find yourself typing impulsively or reading negative comments, try to reflect upon the meaning behind the message. Give yourself a minute to think about what the message you’re dealing with conveys, read the message out loud and identify what makes it sound so strident. You might find some of those expressive tools we mentioned earlier. Don’t mistake exclamations for true emotion; a lot of our negative emotions come from negative assumptions.
If you are reading a comment about yourself which is nasty or spiteful, try and let the thought pass by you and not sink in. There is no way to do right by everyone, so try to do right by yourself. Be mindful and scroll on, you flawed wonderful person, you.