Is Social Media Turning You Into A Terrible, Toxic Person?
For years now, I had slowly but surely started to grow weary of social media. I had all but abandoned my Twitter and Facebook page, only keeping them for work purposes, and refused to try most of the new apps that everyone was raving about. The only social media I didn’t give the cold shoulder in the same manner was Instagram. And yet, certain profiles, certain former classmates, certain things, started to rub me the wrong way.
I felt as though there were too many negative things penetrating my spirit on a daily basis, causing me, in turn, to be and feel negative. So, I logged off of just about everything and, to this day, continue to be on an indefinite pause. And you know what? I feel more at peace. It was a move that made sense to me. Especially since those who know me know that I always say, “The Internet is the worst thing to happen to people.” And after reading about what happened to a young woman and writer named Danielle “Jazz” Noel, I’m reminded that I was right about that.
She took part in what was supposed to be a fun and funny Elite Daily video (sponsored by T-Mobile) where a few pair of exes go through one another’s phones. But instead of focusing on the humor, people zeroed in on Noel’s looks. Specifically, Black men and women. Some called her everything from “gorilla” to “unattractive” and “ugly.” Noel shared her thoughts on how everything went left, and why she believed that happened, on Afropunk.com:
Colorism and bashing of black features is nothing new to me. I’ve experienced its effects my entire life whether dealing with extended family, or children at school…But social media and the internet, as a whole, is a dangerous and evolutionary means of bullying.
The lack of face-to-face interaction allows for those who would normally remain quiet—in fear of facing any consequences—to rapidly spread hate from behind a computer screen. Herein lies the danger of cyberbullying: Many of those attacking me for being born this way are really dealing with their own inferiority complexes unbeknownst to them, and gain a false sense of superiority by trying to make me feel like less of a person. But whereas, in the past, bullies might have handled the issues with a fight, discussion or something that made both parties reflect on either their actions or reactions; bullies on the internet have [sic] face little accountability for their words. With lack of accountability, they’re less likely to reflect on what caused them to be so cruel, which prevents them from ever looking on the inside to get to know themselves and understand their own hurt. Essentially, social media cyberbullying has ushered in a dangerous evolution of self-hate.
Noel would go on to say that, thankfully, her core family members had encouraged her to love herself and her features, and would help her be “very comfortable in my skin, and prefer my nose, lips and any other feature that makes me, me.” So, she had nothing to offer her unwarranted detractors but pity, because it’s clear they’re facing an internal struggle. What struck me about her response to the disdainful slander was her statement that “social media cyberbullying has ushered in a dangerous evolution of self-hate.” I agree with that. Because there has to be something off within a person to call a complete stranger “ugly,” a “gorilla,” or a “b-tch” on a public forum. What can someone do with that information? Change their face? Go into hiding to make you feel better? I think not.
And I get it. We are all entitled to our opinions. I’m sure we’ve all had less than pleasant ones about everything and everybody. But there’s a difference between what pops into your mind and what comes out of your mouth–or better yet, what you choose to take the time to type out and share with the world. And I’m not referring to trolls. They’ve obviously made it their goal in life to be nasty. Don’t feed ’em. Rather, I’m talking about you and me.
And this is exactly why I had to get away from social media. I truly believe that it’s brought out the worst in a lot of people. It’s created the type of individuals who can’t look at an image without trying to figure out what’s wrong with it. Who can’t wait to be that one dissenting opinion that has to point out trivialities in the hopes that they’ll get kudos for being “different.” Who get on social media and complain about stories they haven’t read, people they don’t know from Adam, and to serve attitude on a cold plate to people just because they don’t agree with them. Somehow, by throwing darts at people from a place of anonymity, we’ve tried to disguise even the ugliest of statements as merely an “opinion” some people are just too sensitive to hear. And if someone disagrees with us in a similar tart fashion, then we have the gall to deem them the “ignorant,” “unprofessional,” “bitter,” “disrespectful” one. Hey, don’t start none, won’t be none.
I know all this because I fed into that crap. I let gossip site pages pull me into negative conversations at someone else’s expense, knowing full well the seat of my pants was on fire come Sunday morning because I felt like crap about the way I treated others. I was a follower, following the lead of strangers in saying any ol’ thing. It’s still something I’m working on fixing.
I made the realization that social media was taking away my sense of peace. I noticed the ways in which people tried to crack even the most confident of people. I saw the ways in which they, and even myself, were, in a way, being bullies. Once I felt all that penetrating my spirit negatively, I realized it was something I had to get away from.
Would you admit that you have found yourself saying and doing some less than positive things on social media, all because nobody who knows you could hold you accountable for them? If so, you might just benefit from a similar social media sabbatical. And if not, you can always just remember the age-old adage that if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. And that, is a lesson too many of us fail to heed.