Michelle Haines Thomas | Human nature, online and off

Social media. It’s reshaping our brains, and leading to developmental and behavioural problems society has never before encountered.

At least, that’s the view you’ll found out there on...social media.

And I’m not disputing it, but human behaviour has always been pretty kooky, and sometimes pretty terrible.

What if all social media has done is amplify it? Maybe it’s just given a platform to some of the bad stuff that once flew under the radar.

For instance, I’ve unfollowed a guy on Facebook because all he ever posted were tiresome selfies. But the truth is, I always thought he was something of a narcissist. So all social media did was make it more obvious.

Let’s try it with another social media blunder: virtue signalling.

According to Urban Dictionary it’s “saying you love or hate something to show off what a virtuous person you are, instead of actually trying to fix the problem.”

This, in the past, was known as ‘being a hypocrite’, which is something most of us are to some degree, some (if not all) of the time.

All social media has done has given us the tools – such as providing ready-made frames for our profile pictures – that allow us to publicly jump on board any passing wagon. We used to have bumper stickers for that.

Vaguebooking was an early social media annoyance, which I think we’ve all learnt from and put behind us (at least online).

But what made those status updates so irritating – “Fenella is... having a bad day…” – is that it chimed so strongly with our experience of people who, face-to-face, do the exact same thing.

They make remarks that beg the question, fish for sympathy and refuse to provide information while hinting at tragedy.

It’s hardly a new social habit. We just didn’t have a catchy name for it before.

What is new, I suppose, apart from the ability to broadcast our flaws to an ever-wider audience, is the need to name these behaviours so we can more easily mock them on social media.

And there’s probably a name for that, too.

This story Whether we’re online or off, we’re still only human first appeared on The Courier.

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