The Dangers of Social Media (Part 4)

It's easier to be cruel when you're hiding behind a computer screen.

This is the fourth and final article on the potential negative effects of social media. In this series, we have discussed cyberbullyinghow too much dependence on social media can impair a child’s ability to read face-to-face social cues, how electronic communication can lead to hurtful miscommunication, and how we can be impacted by the Facebook delusion. Today, we will explore social media bullying.

Cyberbullying occurs when someone uses social media in an aggressive, demeaning or harassing manner. The bullying can include critical comments, spreading rumors or threatening statements. Like other forms of bullying, it can create depression, anxiety, lowered self-esteem, social isolation and even suicide. Cyberbullying Hotline reports that 42% of teenagers with social media access report experiencing cyberbullying over the past year. They reported that 20% of cyberbullied kids have considered suicide because of the bullying, and 1 in 10 attempted it.

Unfortunately, bullying has always been a common experience of childhood and adolescence. The negative impact of bullying has always been tremendous. Social media, however, has added another element to the problem.

The fact that social media communication occurs without face-to-face contact makes bullying easier. The Cyberbullying Hotline survey indicated that 81% of teenagers say that bullying online is easier to get away with. Kids and adults will often say things online that they would never say face-to-face.

Throughout history, aggressors have dehumanized their victims, ignoring their individualization or common humanity. They conditioned themselves, or were taught, to perceive their enemy as less than human, making it easier to take away their basic human rights, including life itself. One example of this was the dehumanization of the Jews by the Nazis.

Social media accomplishes the same thing by eliminating face-to-face contact. You don’t have to look at the face of your victim when you bully them. You don’t have to see the hurt in their eyes. It’s a little like putting a hood on your victim before you execute them. You feel less restraint, guilt or remorse.

Cyberbullying can be quite vicious and devastating to its victims. There are sites where a teenager can upload her photo for feedback. The comments are more often critical and cruel than complementary or supportive. There are also many examples of teenagers actually urging another teen to commit suicide, saying the world would be better off without them. Unfortunately, they sometimes listen to the advice.

Of all the dangers of social media, cyberbullying is the worst. Parents need to monitor social media use of their children and adolescents, as best they can. Don’t be afraid to ask your child if they have been bullied online, and how it impacted them. Try to establish an open line of communication, where they will be more likely to talk to you about abuse. Don’t underestimate the dangers of social media.

The Connection Between Non-Assertiveness and Depression

Research has shown a relationship between non-assertiveness and depression. The studies indicated that people whocouple_talking_nicely are generally non-assertive are more likely to get depressed than others who are assertive. Assertiveness has been defined as behavior that enables people to act in their own best interests by expressing their thoughts and feelings directly and honestly.

Lets look at the definitions of non-assertiveness, assertiveness and aggressiveness. When we are non-assertive, we honor the other person’s rights, but don’t honor our own rights. When we’re aggressive, we honor our own rights, while trampling on the other person’s rights. When we’re assertive, we honor our own rights, while also honoring the other person’s rights.

In my counseling, I have seen many people who were experiencing depression that was either caused or worsened by an inability to be assertive. The client had allowed others to treat her badly, and was unable to stand up for herself. Over time, the pain and perceived helplessness of the situation led to clinical depression. Like the old idea of Chinese water torture, the drip, drip, drip of being mistreated, without self-defense took it toll.

There are many reasons that people have difficulty being assertive. We will look at several of them here.

1. There is a fear that the other person will get angry. In most cases, this isn’t a fear of physical violence, but rather, a fear of the anger itself. The non-assertive person may have experienced intense or inappropriate anger from a parental figure during childhood. The child associated danger with the anger. That association is maintained in the adult. Even though the victim will readily admit that they are not afraid of violence from the other person, they experience fear and anxiety, as if violence was a risk.

2. The non-assertive person fears disapproval from the other person. In this case, the focus is on the risk of disappointing the other person. No action is necessary. Just a disappointing look, or an anticipated loss of respect can keep the victim silent.

3. Sometimes the non-assertive person has a fear of “being mean.” This individual fears hurting the other person or inconveniencing them. These are the classic “people pleasers.” They work very hard to be nice, even if it means sacrificing their own needs.

4. The person’s self-esteem may be so low, that he feels he has no right to be assertive. He upholds others rights to defend their needs, but doesn’t feel he has the same rights.

This isn’t a comprehensive list of causes, and you may relate somewhat to them all. Changing from non-assertive behaviors to assertive behaviors can be difficult. It begins with small things. State your opinion in areas where you anticipate less resistance. At first, be assertive with people you feel will be more receptive. Practice the behavior.

You will be uncomfortable at first. You will feel anxiety and may be uncertain about whether you have the right to be assertive in a particular situation. Try this little mind experiment. Imagine a friend or loved one in the exact same situation as you are experiencing. Put them in your shoes. Would they have a right to be assertive if they were in this situation? Would you want them to stand up for themselves? If so, then you should be assertive as well. Practice the behavior you would want your friend to exhibit.

So, what if you are assertive and the other person resists, argues with or ignores your requests? You will have to be “persistently assertive,” meaning that you maintain you position, stating your disagreement calmly but confidently.

Also, don’t be surprised if the other person accuses you of being selfish or mean. When others are accustomed to you being non-assertive, going along, and never disagreeing, they will perceive you as mean or overly negative when you stand your ground. You may just have to push through this hurdle. Over time, they will get used to your assertive moments and actually see it as within your rights.

Learning to be assertive is a gradual process. You begin with the realization that you have the right to be assertive. Then you practice the behavior in less intimidating situations. Gradually, you state your mind in more difficult circumstances. Eventually, you will be able to be assertive without even realizing it.

 

Question: What other reasons come to mind for non-assertive behaviors? Share them here.

From Bullied to Beautiful

Shane Koyczan at TED Conference

Shane Koyczan at TED Conference

You have to watch this TED talk by Shane Koyczan. He addresses so many aspects of self-esteem with humor and passion. We have to do more to address the hurts inflicted during childhood, and the subsequent wounds carried through adulthood.

Click on this link to watch:

http://new.ted.com/talks/shane_koyczan_to_this_day_for_the_bullied_and_beautiful

Comments: Please share your thoughts on Shane’s talk and ideas about ways we can better address these issues.