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GLEN Dunkley has been working with social media in a professional capacity since its inception and is a keen observer of online behaviour and trends, especially in the comment areas.
“The social media comments section has become a spectator sport for some, while others feel the need to get down and dirty in the arena,” Mr Dunkley said.
He says a lack of empathy is driving most of the issues, and that the ability to empathise with others is crucial for successful social interactions.
“Our ancestors lived in small communities and all our interactions were with people you would see again in the immediate future. That kept in check any temptation to act aggressively or taking the accolade for other people’s contributions,” Mr Dunkley said.
“According to new research, even when feeling empathy for others isn’t financially costly or emotionally draining, people will still avoid it because empathy requires too much mental effort for some.
“Studies have shown the amount of internet use correlates with the decreased ability people have to interact with others in social situations and their avoidance of social contact. In the online world, where people don’t interact with, or know the other person, there is low personal risk in confronting and exposing them.
“Online forums can offer physical distance, relative anonymity and reduced risk for bad behaviour. Technology makes it so easy for people to have less empathy for others,” he said.
Mr Dunkley said a major reason behind online discussions turning personal is because of a flaw in reasoning called ‘Ad hominem’.
“This is an aggressive strategy where genuine discussion of the topic at hand is avoided, and instead one person will attack the other person’s character, or motive, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself,” Mr Dunkley said.
“This is an invalid attempt to discredit another by answering their criticism on a fact or opinion with a personal attack, and never actually presenting a counterargument to the original subject.
“Why do they resort to that? Because they know they’ll lose the argument, they’ll use every trick in the book to avoid the topic,” he said.
Community backlash has forced the online social media giants to look at the way they operate, with Instagram removing the visible number of likes people get.
“Instagram hopes that people will feel less pressured when they post – some of the reported negative repercussions Instagram has on its users’ mental health can be traced back to the weight it places