Most of the time when I go on Facebook, I am checking up on the happy news and not so happy news of friends. As a friend I like to celebrate the joys of others and support them when they are down. When I post new statuses, I am usually sharing news that is meaningful to me and love to get the support of others. As a clinical psychologist, I am inclined to observe the interactions between people. What a wonderful place Facebook is for that.
There is, however, a Facebook phenomenon that particularly disturbs me. Not infrequently, I see snarky or contentious responses to posts. I have noticed that they are usually in response to political or religious comments. These comments become increasingly aggressive as the conversation continues. More people get involved and then the drama escalates. In addition, I have noticed a trend where a celebratory status is met with a deflating comment. This, too, is more likely to occur when there are multiple responses to a status. Perhaps people believe that their comments will seem less aggressive if they get lost in the lengthy set of comments.
Why, you are probably wondering, do people do this to one another? Let me try to explain. When individuals (of all ages) are interacting online they feel anonymous. When people feel anonymous they give themselves permission to behave more aggressively. You see, when there is no eye-to-eye contact, there is less empathy and less of a clear understanding of the impact that we are having on one another. The other consideration is that someone who is a bit angry or envious of you may take a jab at you on social media.
My suggestion is that we become more cognizant of the tone of our online comments. We all have feelings online and when we are not online. Take 5-10 seconds before posting something that may hurt someone else for much longer than 5 or 10 minutes. Also, you will likely feel better about yourself if you are posting no comment rather than snarky comments.