Or aren’t they? Let’s explore the myth that people are more sensitive to insult and offense.
I read “for generations that were raised with Simpsons and South Park, why are they so sensitive?” It got me thinking, why are we so sensitive?
Then it occurred to me… we aren’t… we are just taking in significantly more stimulus.
What? We are taking in, experiencing, more stimulus. We are exposed to far more negativity, opinion, and over-all information, than we were a decade (and decades) ago.
Think about it this way: what if you had zero internet stimulus each day. Your only external input was your typical, “real life”, stuff. Sure you’d still have people irritate you, but let’s say they irritate you 100 widgets worth. Add irritation from the internet and we experience more.
Furthermore, people have less filters online. There’s far more to it than filters, but I want to keep this simple. Let’s stick with widgets.
If you’re in front of someone, say in a small gathering (10 people), you’re more likely to be influenced by cultural and social norms. These norms have taught us to be kind, considerate, compassionate… and usually quiet. We keep our negative opinions to a minimum. However, online, we have less of this social and cultural influence, and we feel free, almost compelled, to share any thought going through our heads. In person we may share 2 widgets of negativity, while online it may be 4 (6, 10, or more!)
As we grew up, learned these norms, and experienced a great deal of offense, we were taught how to deal with it. We were taught lessons based on a more “old-school” frame of ego management. Now we have to deal with a great deal more social, online negativity… and we aren’t good with it.
We aren’t more sensitive, we are dealing with more offense and unable to manage it as well as we’d like.
We will adapt, humans are exceptional at this. Until then, what are some things we can do to help ourselves, and others, manage offense:
- Assume (rightly or wrongly is irrelevant) that any negatively online is not personal towards you and the author would never say it to your face.
- Know that your interpretation of something said is what makes you feel good, or bad, about it. You can take a compliment as a criticism, and vice versa. Choose to assume the best, always.
- The next time you’re offended, bothered, or feel the need to speak out… ask yourself what value it will add and how you would communicate it if you were in front of your entire family, world experts, and those you find to be influential.
- Know that assholes exist and you’re more likely to find them online. Why? Your normal social circle is influenced by you and your choices, while you have little influence on the online community. If you did meet one in person, you’d ignore them and divest. Do the same to them online.
- Hating people, opinions, actions, etc. are a waste of your time and energy, and it only poisons you. My first step with this was to not opine on current political events. After doing this a while I realized that I wasn’t getting as frustrated, and instead, I had clearer ideas on how I’d like to influence the change I wanted to see.
We should be quick to be kind, and slow to be offended. Choose the most optimistic view and response possible. You have this choice. You own it.
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