The vicious truths of the world wide web

With the invention of social networks, particularly Facebook and Twitter, it seems nothing is private any more.

The vicious truths of the world wide web

It is not just names, profile pictures and birthdays, but that status bar asking “What’s on your mind?” also seems to lure so many to divulge facts and feelings that one would normally keep private.

That simple question appears to have facilitated the venting of anger, frustration and countless other emotions. Twitter is no better; the status-centred format seems to create a feeling of autonomy that means Tweeters really let rip.

It is not a coincidence that both Twitter and Facebook use a calming blue for their brand, so is it luring us into a false sense of security? It certainly doesn’t seem to be calming us down.

Passive aggression is defined by the University of Connecticut as “non-active forms of aggression … when these behaviours are motivated by the intent of irritating or getting back at another person.”

What is particularly interesting about this definition is that it gives us insight into the motivations of the passive aggressive social networker – it would appear that they aren’t just venting, but seek to hurt or offend the indirect target of their tweet or status. Are we seeking retribution through social media? Do we feel better if our angry status gets more likes or retweets than theirs?

Even celebrities are not above such forms of self-expression, with countless famous names being less than subtle with their anonymously aimed tweets. Many often erupt into full blown indirect Twitter wars. From Piers Morgan, Rihanna and Cheryl Cole to Alan Sugar, they’ve all been had their own disputes on the internet.

This behaviour comes from the same group in society that takes to the courts to demand super injunctions to stop other celebrities using Twitter to vent anger and expose their secrets, as we saw early this year with Imogen Thomas and Ryan Giggs.

So why then do even those that call for more privacy, or are held in positions of esteem, as celebs often are, take to Twitter and Facebook in anger?

A Stanford University paper explains that we have “social sanctions and internalized self-sanctions” when committing transgressions. Certainly a passive aggressive status raises few of the concerns of face to face confrontation. Perhaps the abstract nature of the internet and the imagined autonomy that comes with it means we’ve dropped those inner sanctions too.

With one billion Facebook users, and 500 million Twitter users generating over 340 million tweets per day, passive aggression on social media is a daily occurrence. In Twitter and Facebook we seem to find the freedom to express ourselves fully, without fear of consequence. With so many people having access to what we type, surely it’s rather naïve to suppose the internet is a safer outlet than the real world?


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August 2022
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