Is Social Media Making Us Meaner?

A study by KRC Research recently concluded, in America, "rude behavior is becoming our new normal."

It's a sobering look at how civility has evolved in our culture - with 70 percent of Americans surveyed agreeing the issue has reached crisis levels.

The researchers say many of the study participants blamed the Internet.

Does that mean social media is making us meaner?

According to trained behaviorist Dr. Merlyn Griffiths, an associate professor at UNCG's Bryan School of Business, the answer isn't as simple as it appears.

Griffiths has been studying how people act and what they say online for more than 10 years.

"If you have a mean trait, then there's a possibility that your mean trait becomes more enveloped depending on yourself. But I wouldn't necessarily say social media is going to create a meaner you," she explained.

Griffiths went on to say while we filter our language in face-to-face conversations, that's usually not the case in our social media interactions.

"I don't have to filter what I say. Why? Because I don't know you," Griffiths added. "The probability of you and I meeting face to face is slim to not-ever-going-to-happen. So, I don't need to filter what I have to say to you. I can just be brash."

Sometimes that crosses the line and becomes a crime as one teenager found out the hard way in Alamance County this year.

In February, prosecutors convicted 18-year-old Robert Bishop under a new state Cyber Bullying law.

Griffiths says we can't necessarily say mean has the same meaning offline or online, but she admits the social media platform definitely plays a role in how people act in the digital world.

"It facilitates meanness, it allows us to be mean if we choose to be without any repercussions," she said.

A 2013 article on details a social media etiquette checklist.

Some of the questions the article suggests considering before clicking "post" include:

1. Will I offend anyone with this content? If so, who? Does it matter?

2. Is this appropriate for a social portal, or would it best be communicated another way?

3. Will I be okay with absolutely anyone seeing this?

4. Am I using this as an emotional dumping ground? If so, why? Is a different outlet better for these purposes?

5. Is this reactive communication or is it well thought-out?

6. Is this really something I want to share, or is it just me venting?


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