The effect of trolling via social media on mental health is becoming a modern-day crisis. Social media is a convenient method of harrassing and bullying others in a non-direct way. You don’t have the face your victim directly yet you can express all of your anger and inner unhappiness without too much effort. Type insults and derogatory remarks furiously on a keyboard and …send. Job done.
Why is bullying on social media increasing?
The main reason that people bully others is to feel better about themselves. They tend to be unhappy people and when they bully, they are giving others a ‘tiny taste’ of how tumultuous and chaotic their inner world is. Instead of having to deal with our inner demons in a steady, healthy therapeutic way (counselling or therapy), it’s far quicker to project your inner chaos and negativity onto another person (known as projection). Social media has facilitated this negative energy transfer quite effectively. Cyberbullying can take place anonymously and this makes it easier to bully others with no adverse consequences – this needs to change.
Online bullying includes sending threatening, humiliating or intimidating messages, or posting hurtful comments or images. I have been bullied and harrassed on social media. The latest episode of bullying and shaming has occurred on the website Medium.com. It seems freedom of speech comes with a hefty price – others will judge you and insult you, instead of either ignoring what you have to say or accepting that we aren’t all going to agree on issues in life.
So trolling gets justified in this way when others tell you that you should be ashamed of what you think or that you clearly don’t know anything.
There is a general undercurrent of anger, frustration and discontent rumbling through society and spewing forth in a negative way gives a troll quick relief. It’s similar to self-harm but instead it is harm directed towards others – anger directed externally rather than internally. This negative energy can be likened to the old game of “pass the parcel”. All that negativity and anger is horrible to hold on to so we quickly push it someone else’s way in the form of trolling via social media. “I want someone else to feel just as bad as I do” is the underlying motivation for trolling and bullying on social media today.
Social media bullying statistics
- 87% of young people say they have experienced social media bullying at some time in their lives.
- 36.5% of people say they have been bullied online in the past.
- Cyberbullying cuts across all economic classes and ethnic backgrounds.
- Trolling via social media makes young people more than twice as likely to self-harm or attempt suicide.
- Interestingly, perpetrators of cyberbullying were also around 20 percent more likely to have self-harmed or attempted suicide than non-bullies.
How trolling via social media affects mental health
Cyberbullying increases depression and anxiety exponentially. Trolling via social media has an adverse affect on a person and can lead to demotivation, increased suicide risk and can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. The strongest protective factor against being a target of cyberbullying was positive peer interaction (Zycha, Farrington, & Ttofi, 2018)
Things to consider before posting online
- Think about what you write or photos you add.
- Ask yourself, could these words be picked up the wrong way or cause upset? Is this photo suitable for lots of people to see?
- If you post something online and ‘comments’ or ‘chat’ becomes cruel, remove your posts so you are not part of a negative situation.
- I always ask myself would I like this to be read about myself. It puts it into perspective and avoids any type of negativity online.
- Always be careful online and remember that words don’t just hurt but can kill.
What can be done about trolling via social media
Trolling via social media is a symptom of an increasingly unhappy society. Social media has exploded and this leaves people feeling they are insignificant and not a good as the social influencers they would like to be. They are more likely to “compare and despair”, feeling their lives are boring and they are losing out. A feeling of failure permeates and when an individual is unable to effectively deal with this internal stress, external projection (in the form of cyberbullying becomes more likely). Bullies are not happy people.
Contented people do not feel the need to hurt and upset others.
Individuals should be taught how to deal with competitiveness in the world today. Values should also be prioritised instead of many young people idealising social media influencers where the focus is on external looks, success, status and fame. We are creating a society that mistakenly believes this is the way to happiness when it is far from it.
The way to real happiness is to lead a life in line with your values. If your appearance and your fitness levels are a value then get down to the gym and go for a run outdoors. Comparing your progress to strangers on social media is the worst thing to do and will increase depression and anxiety. You don’t know anything about this seemingly perfect person as they only show you what they want you to see. I have given therapy to social media influencers and their lives aren’t at all what others think they are – they love with constant pressure and fear of failure and rejection. We live with these assumptions in our heads and they make us feel inadequate about ourselves – we feel inadequate over ideas that aren’t even happening in the real world. No one has a perfect life so stop trying to have something that doesn’t exist.
Instead, get back to what is important to you. By all means, enjoy your time on social media but don’t use that as your benchmark of success.