Why are people so mean online?

It's the eternal question. Amber Ghei speaks to ex-Love Islander Savanna Darnell, YouTuber Kassia Poh, and Psychologist Dr Michele McDowell about why they think people feel free to be so mean online.

Mean online

by Amber Ghei |
Updated on

Last week, Love Island's Jess Gale received direct messages through her Instagram account branding her as 'sly, ugly, fat c***', along with many hundreds of death threats. As Jess still remains in the show, her twin sister Eve spent hours defending her twin's account, leaving her to deal with this abuse alone.

We spend so much time defending social media, telling older generations how it allows us to stay in contact with people, see the world, express our creativity and establish an online presence. Yes, social media has its benefits. But it can also be technological hell as the internet acts as a catalyst for cruel comments.

We continue to put the best version of ourselves out there to gain validation from others. It can all be whittled down to the idea of ‘perfectionism’, not feeling good enough due to social standards being set at unreachable heights.

We are overwhelmed with imposter syndrome, a constant need to want everyone to like you. Social media serves as an addictive force that leaves us with a pressure cooker of comparison issues due to the manipulative use of filters and editing tools, not to mention botched beauty standards.

As for Jess and the rest of us, even when we put our best selves on display, people still comment something negative, but why?

Savanna Darnell, an ex-Love Islander and YouTuber was labelled 'the ugliest contestant ever' and became addicted to seeing what people were saying about her online.

'The tweets, memes and comments wouldn’t stop', she said was constantly being pulled up for her appearance on the show, particularly her hair.

'My appearance is one thing that has always invited trolls in. When I read comments about the way I looked it sent my self-esteem through the floor. I hated myself. It’s crazy what a person’s opinion can do to your self-esteem', she adds.

The YouTuber explained that, 'people should stop with their judgmental comments, maybe then there would be fewer hate comments online. All people do is compare and it leads to jealousy and hateful comments being published which can expunge anyone’s self-esteem.'

'I think people are mean online because it’s easy, you’re sat behind a computer screen or phone and don’t have to say anything to someone’s face. It says more about the person saying the mean comments – as they must have a lot of problems with themselves to even comment in the first place', explained Savanna.

Kassia Poh, a YouTuber, also told Grazia, 'people are mean online because of the anonymity. If a person disliked another person and was asked to say their comment in person, they would most probably not say it to them.

'Most of the hate I’ve witnessed or experienced is from people who are clearly projecting their own insecurities and hating one another. It makes people feel better about themselves to make someone else feel bad.'

While social media appears to do more damage than good she said, 'On Instagram, celebrities often post photoshopped bodies and some influencers do the same.

'If this is all that you’re seeing on your feed ten times a day, it starts to generate unhealthy feelings towards yourself. Someone is always going to be richer, skinnier or prettier than you and comparing yourself to these people can make you 'more insecure in yourself and you’ll then be more likely to take these insecurities out on other people.

'Maybe other social media sites can follow in the same footsteps as YouTube, allowing the owner of a profile to disable comments on posts or being in control of approving comments would demotivate hateful commenters. Limiting engagement possibilities on social media such as like options would also resolve the issue because there would be nowhere for them to express themselves,' she adds.

Grazia spoke to Dr Michele McDowell, a psychologist, who told us, 'Many comments on social media confirm the saying, the internet can bring out the worst in people. Online trolls tend to post crude comments without fear as they think they won’t receive any retaliation since they are behind a screen.

'A recent psychological study indicated that trolls have specific traits: such as a high cognitive empathy trait coupled with psychopathy. [This means that trolls show] a lack of care to those around them which explains their mean, hurtful and unkind behaviour', she said.

'Trolling seems inescapable and nobody is immune to trolling behaviour such as celebrities like Little Mix’s Jesse Nelson and members of the royal family including The Duchess of Sussex, who have all been targeted by unpleasant comments', says Michele.

'[Another reason people] act out more frequently and intensively is because of the Online Disinhibition Effect, which revealed that those experiencing feelings of anonymity and invisibility and they often post mean comments because they know they can't be identified', she said.

[Other reasons why people post mean comments is to] 'boost their self-worth and can often be a way to connect with other people who share similar malicious comments. Both connection and community are significant to trolls as they are considered to be on the periphery of social groups and lack a sense of connection and community in their day to day life.'

READ MORE: https://graziadaily.co.uk/life/real-life/millennials-not-using-social-media/

READ MORE: https://graziadaily.co.uk/life/opinion/not-sharing-on-social-media/

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