Does Social Media make us Angry

by Blog Author | Sep 09, 2014

Over the last few months I have written a fair number of articles that I have had published on various online as well print mediums. They have ranged from taking South Africa media to task over distorted and quite frankly irresponsible reporting with regard to Israel, I have pondered the future of South African Jewry, I have written personal accounts of my son’s leaving of the family nest and more recently I contemplated the responsibility that I bare in local crime making me fat. 


What I am finding interesting, a very short distance into this journey, are the responses that I receive for my columns and the fact that it seems that when people don’t like what I write, that it evokes real and visceral anger. In order to determine if this is unique to me I spent some time reading comments from other “bloggers”. And my not so scientific research revealed that indeed if one compares Letters to the Editor in a printed paper to the comments below an article on line, the tone, the grammar and “self regulation” is quite different. It might well be the time that it took us in the past to compose a letter, show it to our spouses or friends and walk to the mailbox to send it off for possible publication.


I remember so clearly as a young child of 11, having composed an admittedly very weak poem and sending it off to The Star with the hope of it being printed in the children’s section on Saturday, along with Betsy’s (8, Krugersdorp Primary School) drawing of a tight rope walker. Strangely my poem, which dealt with the slaughter of Jews during the holocaust didn’t capture the Editor’s attention (there is a surprise), and my brief attempt at becoming a world-renowned poet in time for my bar mitzvah was dashed. Either that or my parents never actually mailed it, saving me, and the family from public humiliation given the quality of the writing. The point of this is that I was at the mercy of “The Editor” who, something like God, decided which piece would live and which would die. And if it was published, it meant that it was deemed acceptable and therefore worthy of some respect at least.


So times have changed and everyone can write and everyone can comment. God doesn’t seem to exist on line, or has hidden His face, and it is quite frankly a free for all. In my short foray into this arena I have been told to  “F…” off, on so many occasions that I am no longer even offended by it. I have been asked who the ‘F….’ I think I am in so many comments along with the call for my death in so many variations of the anti Zionist theme that it’s actually not even a compliment anymore.  It is clear that somehow when we do respond to on line articles, it is so often with the intensity of feeling that we would not deem appropriate for the printed option. It is possible that the style of the Blog is more colloquial and therefore allows for this “natural” reaction and as we are emboldened we are less concerned about our spelling and grammar and of course the fear of arrest (when threatening to burn someone along with all other Zionist pigs). It could also be that we often respond alone and we can be emboldened to say things to our computer or smart phone that we would never dream of saying to someone in person.


The positive side of this is that we are exposed to a multitude of views from so many standpoints, some of which I am certain that we would want to know. It is a forum for the expression of ideas and opinions and quite frankly, I have to say that I enjoy it when someone disagrees with a thought that I have. It means that I have caused debate on some level, and that has to be positive.


Others, not so much. Yesterday I learned about the divorce of a couple I know through the (ex) husband’s Blog at a major publication. I accept that I was not expecting a Whatsapp from him (we aren’t good friends) but it was slightly uncomfortable to learn this news like this.  And shamefully, I admit, I even scrolled down to see if his ex wife’s side of the story could be found below, because as it was now our business, I certainly had the right to demand the other side to this sad story.


What is clear to me is that Social media makes us feel. And when we feel we experience the full range of emotions and it is those emotions that find their way into the comment section. And I think that they are great. Good and bad and supportive and not. It creates debate and it challenges and that can’t be bad. I would just hope a little easy on the death wish part, even if I am a Zionist.




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