How We All Perpetuate Negativity Online

In the wake of rapper Mac Miller’s untimely death last week, what was most shocking about the situation was the animosity between people online--not towards Miller himself, but rather his ex-girlfriend Ariana Grande. Internet trolls (people who purposely post drastic messages in order to start a fight) took advantage of the situation and sparked feuds during a highly emotional time for many fans of both celebrities. However, this is not an isolated event. Online negativity reaches every platform and every online conversation, making it nearly impossible for the average user to avoid. Being constantly surrounded by this negativity can affect our mood, our thought patterns, and if we choose to engage, our public image. I know that it’s not realistic for people to completely log off social media in order to avoid the negativity, and we shouldn’t have to. Below I’ve outlined a few ways I and other social media users, perhaps unknowingly, invite negativity into our own feeds.

Following Celebrities. Celebrities and influencers using their social media pages to self-promote their work are not the problem. There are a fair number of celebrities who love to start fights with others online for a variety of reasons: the more they fight, the more media attention they receive. Usually, a large fanbase is ready to defend their favorite celebrity, oftentimes starting fights with other followers. Of course, someone who is dedicated to spreading positivity or only engages in order to stop spreading hate or misinformation is rightly justified in doing so. But if you find yourself constantly tracking a feud between two people that doesn’t involve anybody else, or even fighting on behalf of someone you don’t even know, it may be time to hit the unfollow button.


Not Picking Your Battles. It can be frustrating when you see a comment you disagree with that is uninformed, disrespectful, and hateful. However, if I were to sit down and craft a response to every one of those comments I see, I would be sitting here all day. Like I said above, internet trolls post online for the purpose of making other people angry. It’s an important skill to differentiate between people who are genuinely looking for a constructive conversation and those who simply want to fight and knowing not to waste your time with the latter. Save your energy for when your opinion can really make a difference.


Making Things Personal. The thing that annoys me the most about fights I see online is when it starts with one issue, but then quickly devolves into people insulting each other about their appearance or personal traits that have nothing to do with the original argument. This fighting tactic is used to make someone insecure which only intimidates the person into silence or reciprocation, which strays away from the true conflict of the argument. If a post pokes fun at traits a person cannot change, then the post’s intention is to intimidate the other person into silence, which is bullying. If the comment does not offer an opinion that can be backed up by evidence or does not relate to the reason you’re angry at someone, then it’s meaningless in an argument and is better left unsaid.


Spending Too Much Time on Social Media. Taking time off of social media is often linked to spending quality time focusing on ourselves. While this is beneficial, reflecting on the online environment we surround ourselves with can best be done by getting off social media. When we see the same posts, the same people, and the same arguments day in and day out, it can feel like these posts reflect what is happening in our daily lives. The truth is social media can bring out the best and worst in people, but can never show a complete picture of a person or situation. Social media websites profit off of engagement and are designed to encourage engagement as much as possible, positive or negative. When we take time to hold conversations offline and experience the issues and conflicts going on in our real life communities, we can balance the negativity with all the other great interactions we have with decent people, not hiding behind a screen.

The internet is a wonderful place because of its accessible information, entertainment, and social networking. By refusing to perpetuate online negativity, we can reduce the amount of hate and distractions and promote all the good things about social media. Who knows, we may even see more positivity in our offline lives as well.