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A psychology researcher explains how social media is changing us

It’s like people have a sense of their friends’ identity and personality and esteem as viewed through social media instead of reality, like a homunculus in their head. Maybe keep a record of their friends’ posts.

Yeah, probably not consciously, but that’s what we see what happens overall. And then if a post seems unusual for the person, then a friend is more likely to comment on it and say something about it. As for the kinds of post that get social support — there’s a lot of mixed evidence on that and some of it does seem to depend on these individual differences and the people that are posting them.

You briefly mentioned cyberbullying earlier. Can social media enable that behavior?

Yes, definitely. There have been a lot of single case reports making the news where teenagers or young adults are bullied on social media and they end up committing suicide, so things like that do happen and probably more than we even hear about on the news. Some of the problem with that is that the internet in general gives people a sense of anonymity.

Is that the “online disinhibition effect”?

Yes, I think that probably would fall under that. There are things that we would never say to somebody’s face, but when it’s mediated through the computer, people just say what’s on their mind.      

That sounds like devastating to somebody who is insecure, especially a teen or child. I mean, you and I didn’t grow up with internet people saying really cruel things to us, because we didn’t have Facebook or Twitter as kids. But I imagine it would be so hard to read harsh comments at a young age. Maybe you get used to it … but being a child and experiencing that seems devastating.

Source: Salon: in-depth news, politics, business, technology & culture > Politics

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