` 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... Let’s be hon­est, would you really miss In­sta in­flu­encers?

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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

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