Our lives today are full of many pressures. If you’re not trying to beat traffic on your way to work, you’re trying to meet some deadline. And the rat race never seems to end, only getting more frantic. At such times it’s very hard to keep calm.
When you’re calm you can think more clearly, be in better control of your emotions, breath better and even be more creative.
One area where your mental calmness can be tested is on social media. Discussions on social media can sometimes be very anti-social! Heated moments when discussions become petty and insults take center stage have become commonplace. Such scenarios are catalyzed by sensitive subjects that people hold dearly to their hearts and the mere expression of a contrary opinion by others!
Yes, we talk about freedom of speech and expression but it’s a mirage on social media.
I recently made a comment on a subject matter that someone had posted on Twitter and for two days in a row, I received enough insults to last me a lifetime whereas mine was merely an opinion like any other person’s.
I quickly learnt that while opinions are the cheapest things on the planet, expressing them openly on social media may meet the wrath of some very angry and disturbed people out there! Insults from people especially expressly written and coming in droves can cause mental trauma to a person commonly known as cyberbullying!
Those affected by cyberbullying may experience low self-esteem, anger, depression and even suicidal thoughts.
But should you stop talking about what you believe in? Should you fear some faceless bully insulting you because of your beliefs? Absolutely not! Divergent views are a component of all healthy society. Anyone who cannot accept the opinion of another is living in a very small world.
So how do you stay calm in the face of unrelenting social media bashing?
Stick to the subject
Insults are mere chicken behaviour! Psychologist Nigel Barber, Ph.D writing in Psychology Today indicates that insults are motivated by anger due to status insecurity. The person insulting believes that by insulting another person they raise their own status, much like chicken do have a pecking order in which the most pecked chicken is the lowest in status!
Always keep your eye on the ball – stick to the subject. Anytime someone throws insults at you it’s because of their lack of understanding or inability to respond to the subject matter. By sticking to the subject matter you avoid getting drawn into empty rhetoric.
Remember that you’re in a social space with no moderator! When things get ugly you must rely on your own judgement and decide whether the discussion is still objective. This is especially important when you’re bashed with something totally unrelated to the subject matter. Dr. Nigel Barber says that the purpose is to reduce you in the imaginary status hierarchy.
Do not return fire with fire, instead take a pause and ask a thought-provoking question or ignore the comment. Questions have a way of restoring objectivity to a discussion. It’s never personal. In any case being social means maintaining an amicable environment for fruitful discussions to take place. However, you’ll agree with me that not everyone understands civility when it comes to social media usage.
Accept diverse opinions
Divergent views as long as they are not injurious to a person mentally are acceptable. The world is too big a place for people to believe in the same things. However, when such contrary opinions are laced with insults you know that the discussion has lost meaning. Your opinions are mostly a product of your environment. A different view on the same subject is an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of another person’s perspective.
Confuse Your Enemies
This could be your best strategy when faced with a flood of unrelenting criticism especially on Twitter – click on the like button for their weird comments. Sun Tzu in the Art of War says, “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”
It’s like when you help your enemies up when they’re down. Pour that hot coal on their heads! They’ll be left wondering whether their insults got to you. The only challenge is you can’t like every comment. Therefore this only works at the beginning when the floodgates of criticism begin.
Laugh at Yourself
The world is way too serious! People are busy chasing deadlines, goals, budgets and many other temporal things without putting much thought into what affects their mental health daily.
Laugh at yourself and your mistakes more often, it can not only boost your mood but also help you gain an upbeat personality, says a 2011 study shared by the Time. The more you can laugh at yourself, the easier you can forgive yourself. And if you can easily forgive yourself, you can extend the same to others. Your conversations on twitter and other social media sites are mostly with strangers you’ll never get to meet. There’s no need for grudges and anger episodes. Have a laugh at the ridiculous and move on.
Iron sharpens iron! You can learn more from critics than from those who agree with you. Perhaps in your contribution to the discussion, there’s something you overlooked! When someone points that out don’t get angry but be willing to acknowledge that and move the discussion towards a new direction.
This is especially important if you use social media for business. Your engagement with customers online could provide pointers on where your business needs to make improvements. When a potential client compares your service or product to that of a competitor, do not lash out! Instead pick on a few things you could do better.
In most cultures it is rude to get into a heated argument with a stranger face to face. How come that we find it so easy to insult people we don’t know online? Life is easy when we take it easy. A healthy environment is never acrimonious. Always have a basic objective on why you share your thoughts on a particular subject; either to inform, entertain or correct a misconception. Never go out to put people down or embarrass them online because whatever you sow that shall you also reap in due time.