Science & Space

Why People Are Meaner Online

Why People Are Meaner Online

It wouldn’t exactly be a surprise if I told you that people are mean on the internet. (The sky is also blue if you didn’t know).

But with a lot of mean comments being passed over the internet all the time, people are often left wondering, why?

1. It’s safe

You can say whatever you want because 99 percent of the time nobody is going to do anything about it. Half of the people on this planet get annoyed and upset by people every day in real life and don’t do anything about it; so why would someone put in the effort of finding someone online? Essentially, unless what you’re doing is illegal, there’ll be no real world consequences.

2. The internet is de-humanising

When you’re speaking to someone on the internet, its almost like you’re not speaking to anyone. You can’t see body language, facial expressions and hear real peoples voices in real time, as you could right in front of you. So its hard to understand (as a human) how someone is feeling when they’re not right in front of you. Which sort of creates a dissociation between you and real people; a pretty weird concept but it’s true if you think about it.

3. It’s natural

Ultimately we are mean because we are mean. It’s not exactly a recent problem for humankind. The internet has just made it easier and less punishable. But the emotional consequences remain as they always have; we fall into cycles of hate and dehumanisation.

Paul Bloom, a psychology professor at Yale agrees with this, saying: “A lot of people blame cruelty on dehumanization. They say that when you fail to appreciate the humanity of other people, that’s where genocide and slavery and all sorts of evils come from. I don’t think that’s entirely wrong. I think a lot of real awful things we do to other people arise from the fact that we don’t see them as people.

But the argument I make in my New Yorker article is that it’s incomplete. A lot of the cruelty we do to one another, the real savage, rotten terrible things we do to one another, are in fact because we recognise the humanity of the other person.

We see other people as blameworthy, as morally responsible, as themselves cruel, as not giving us what we deserve, as taking more than they deserve. And so we treat them horribly precisely because we see them as moral human beings.”

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