These past two months, and these last two weeks in particular, I have noticed an increase in disrespectful behaviour on several Facebook groups that I am a part of. Some of these groups have absolutely nothing to do with each other, so there is no correlating theme that might suggest crossover between them. So what is causing people to behave so badly in a public forum?
Trolling and dishonourable behaviour has always plagued online discussions, due to the lack of face to face contact and the deterioration of basic social skills as a result of an increased virtual presence and virtual world. One can very easily be rude to a faceless person, or a faceless mass – there is no real-time, real-life repercussions in most cases (barring those individuals who have been prosecuted for various internet related crimes and misdemeanours, such as bullying or trolling on gross levels, often involving minors). It’s a sad state of affairs, and I fear for the future of social interaction in a world where people are addicted to their phones and other social media (yes, I spot the irony in an online blog, but bear with me) and are increasingly isolating themselves whilst under the illusion of always being connected.
People being rude for apparently no reason, people are trying to publicly shame another person or group, people for whom basic manners is all but lost, people with low self-esteem or any other number of issues that lead too poor behaviour. But why this sudden increase lately?
I wonder whether it has something to do with the weather. Here in Britain, in a climate that for the most part does not suffer the extremes that other countries deal with on a regular basis, when it is very hot or very cold there can be a rise in poor behaviour. These past few weeks Britain has experienced a heat wave, which may have something to do with what is happening in these groups. In Psychology Today, Amie Gordon states “in the summer, hotter weather was associated with being in a more negative mood. Heat is also associated with increased aggression. So when you find yourself feeling sad, grouchy, or wanting to punch someone in the middle of summer, try taking a weekend trip to somewhere cool.” (For the full article, see http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/between-you-and-me/201301/sour-in-the-sun-3-unexpected-ways-weather-affects-your-mood). Dr Joh Grohol wrote a in his online blog “Heat waves are related to more violent behavior and aggression, may be associated with higher drug and alcohol abuse, anxiety tends to decrease with a rise in temperatures, depression and lowered mood tends to increase with a rise in temperatures, high levels of humidity — which often accompany a heat wave — lower concentration, high humidity also increases sleepiness (probably related to poor sleep) and high humidity also appears related to a lack of vigor and energy” (http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/07/20/the-psychology-of-a-heat-wave).
Though we are not, and can never be, separate from external forces such as the weather, we are also highly equipped to deal with our emotions and behaviour through cultural and social standards, upbringing and self-discipline. We are not slaves to these either, but can use them to help reinforce a positive world-view and to make this world a better place for all beings. It is entirely in our hands.
When we are engaging with the world, whether it is using an online presence or a physical face to face engagement, we have to remember that we are dealing with another soul. This is a person who has thoughts and feelings, a history and a future, a journey in life that they are trying to complete perhaps as best they can. It’s all too easy to forget this. I am often reminded by the simple Hindu word/phrase, Namaste – my spirit honours your spirit. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Namaste). Keeping this in mind has helped me a great deal.
This is not to say that simple acceptance of bad behaviour should take place, that we cannot change the world, that you shouldn’t stand up for what you believe in – if you need to speak out on an issue, then you should, with honour and respect. I have done so in the past, and indeed am currently doing so in this very blog. Note that I have not named names, groups, or anything that would personally implicate another soul. Instead, I am trying in my own little way to work through this issue, have my say and try to make the world a better place.
So, if you are ever tempted to belittle, degrade, shame another person, either in person or in an online forum, perhaps in the hopes of getting people to “your side” of the issue, remember that there are no sides, that there is no real need for this behaviour, no positive effect on the world at large. Talk about it, talk it through with respect. Love and compassion are key, and where two souls meet but cannot agree, then, with respect, bow and walk away.
Being kind is not difficult.
And if all else fails, find somewhere cool to think it through first. Namaste