Social media can make some strange behavior because people talk to machines more than other people.  Understanding this problem helps to keep it in check.

More than a machine ...

If you walk into any room crowded with strangers, you might take time to introduce yourself.  If you’re a bit shy you might force a smile and hold back a little bit – or you might just dive in and let go if that’s your thing.  The last thing you’d probably do is start yelling at people, calling them names, and presuming that everything they said should be taken as stupidly as possible.

Yet that’s what happens a lot in social situations on the internet.  There’s a good reason for this, I believe.

When you’re on the internet you aren’t looking another person square in the eyes – you’re staring into the cold glow of a screen.  The interaction is human on machine and very mechanical.  Many people forget that there is another person at the other end experiencing the same thing because what’s directly in front of them is a very different experience than the crowded room of strangers I started out describing.  All they see is the cool glow.

I don’t think that “road rage” is any different, if that helps to explain it.  When your connection with the world starts with a steering wheel you have to first worry about the machine in front of you, not the people way off in their own machines.  It’s easy for many people to forget that we’re all just humans sharing a common experience together and have every reason to want to get along just like we were taught in kindergarten.

No matter how hard we try, we all tend to slip a little bit and forget once in a while.  We can all be jerks.  It happens.

If you remember that this is a problem you’ll find it a lot easier to resist the temptation to say something that you’ll regret later.  Some people never seem to understand that there is another person more or less like them at the other end of the machine and always say something they’d never say in person.  You’ll have to be better than that and learn how to ignore it as you can.  It’s hard, but it’s essential to handling the bad situations that will come along more or less constantly on the internet.

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