Marwa Kazi Mohammed and Progya Barua
A seemingly harmless post. A not so harmless comment. Thus begins another day of battle in the social media wars.
Things escalate quickly and bam, we have the typical Bangladesh keyboard warrior, accompanied by an arsenal equipped with weapons as deadly as personal attacks, derogatory comments, and hate speech, ready to prove their point.
These warriors come from all walks of life. Be it the spoiled teenager, underprivileged rural mass, or the seemingly educated, elites of the society- the social media comment section is packed with shocks and surprises. Funnily enough, all these different people are united by the hate they spew on the internet, leaving us wondering- what is the common thread that drives them? Is it jealousy, is it some sick form of entertainment, or is it just acting on the pressure of the majority?
Join us in the psychological exploration of the Bangladeshi comment section on social media, as we try to make sense of the sheer chaos that increases there every day.
The most common kind of comments we see on social media are the ones that are trying to bring other people down by insulting or downplaying someone’s skills or achievements. This kind of behavior that people showcase by wanting to drag others down can be explained by the crab mentality theory.
Crab mentality” is often used as a metaphor to illustrate the situation of crabs in a bucket. Whenever a lone crab tries to climb out of a bucket, others end up pulling it down.
People with crab mentality usually cannot stand the achievements of others. Hence, they take upon themselves the supreme responsibility of assassinating others with their not-so-important opinions. They spend a significant amount of their time judging the lives and actions of others. Their flat nose can be found in everyone else’s business except their own.
Crabs evolved on seashores and clinging to others is just another way of survival. Crabs do not hold back their mates consciously, they just repeat a natural behavior while inside the bucket. But, HUMANS! Humans indulge in such activities for the sheer purpose of self-fulfillment. Undermining others success, achievements and happiness fill their empty hearts with divine pleasure.
No matter how much blood and sweat you put in achieving anything, critics with crab mentality will always hold you back and fail to acknowledge and applaud your hard work. The worst part is that most of the critics with such a crooked mentality are the so-called educated minds of our society. Well, the problem here is not education, but upbringing.
Another interesting behavior shown on the internet is when people seem to blindly follow whatever is being spewed by a crowd, without judging things for themselves. This includes even educated, usually sensible people, giving in and adapting to the crowd’s psychology.
Humans are social and we are pack animals but sometimes our pack overwhelms our sense of individuality and we end up doing things because other people are doing them. It is the tendency to follow even when following leads to terrible results.
When isolated, these critics might seem like cultivated individuals but in crowds, they act like barbarians. People using social media are deindividualized and are susceptible to herd mentality. Once a few people start making inflammatory and extraneous comments, others will start making similar comments too. Thanks to the global nature of the internet which is a mob where anyone can be a part of from anywhere. And when deindividualization and herd mentality are extended down into the internet, they spin out of control really fast.
The reason people are so crazed isn’t necessarily because they actually care. It is because they follow the intense need for social belonging and feel deindividualized enough that they are not going to experience guilt, directing terrible and offensive language at a stranger. Such people often rage without regret.
And then there’s the curious kind of people, commenting and spreading hate almost as if it’s art. Their work is systematic, organized, and absolutely pointless. If we look into their profiles, these people are often accomplished enough, educated enough, privileged enough. Then why do they resort to such terrible displays of behavior in public forums?
Our first theory is, some of these people enjoy doing so. It gives them a sense of joy and satisfaction to bring other people misery and knowing they are the ones who caused it- a simple concept we can call sadism. And people who enjoy being vile, argumentative, and purposefully disruptive on social media are what we call sadists. They just want to have fun and social media is their playground.
Sadists enjoy hurting people and it gives them a sense of excitement. Anonymity in social media can distance them from their acts in terms of personal responsibility. They use severely toxic and obscene comments, spread communal hatred, insult, and threaten people on the internet. Online sadists spend hours raising hell online and lack remorse and empathy for the victims.
Such nasty sadists wreak havoc online and getting more people to argue with them makes them happier, as it allows them to poison the lives of the people on the other side of the screen. Women, public figures, politicians, religious leaders, and almost everyone is under the radar of such bullies.
What about the educated, supposedly rational people who should be able to distinguish between right and wrong? Why do even they end up acting toxic, hateful, and destructive?
Two words, “blind spot.”
Often educated people arguing on the internet seem to be able to locate the flaws and gaps in everyone else’s opinions, except for their own. They live in a self-created safety bubble for themselves, like a utopia where they are never wrong.
This kind of thinking is generated from an amalgamation of superiority complexes that make them feel like they are better than everyone else, and deep-rooted insecurities that prevent them from seeing themselves as flawed as it would make them vulnerable to their shaky sense of self-worth. Ultimately, the people who are blind spotting themselves are what is known as “impossible people ” in the argumentative arts because no matter how sound and articulate the other party is, these people just refuse to understand.
Another interesting theory that works to explain this kind of behavior by educated people is cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance, in simple words, means that people who are usually known to be sensible and logical cannot accept it if they act contrary to their usual beliefs and ideologies and so their brain convinces them that they are in fact, in the right and not inconsistent. For example, if a usually broad thinking person ends up shaming or bullying someone online, their brains trick them into thinking that this isn’t actually unacceptable behavior and they are not acting inconsistently.
Cognitive dissonance is also a result of a superiority complex and deep insecurities manifesting themselves in the thought process of people to carefully avoid holding oneself accountable.
After spending quite a bit of time trying to analyze and make sense of horrible behavior on social media, the writers of this article have reached the conclusion that the internet is full of dark and shady caves for clout monsters to hide in, who actually are only using this terrifyingly toxic behavior to hide their own flaws and insecurities so desperately that, we actually find this kind of sad and miserable, almost pitiable. Dear terrible people on social media, the next time we see you trying to come out of your caves trying to be horrible, know that we feel deeply sorry for you. Please do everyone a favor and get some therapy. We’ll pray for you