THE MOB MENTALITY OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Jamie Spence MHVB
Cognitive Behavioral Therapist
Social media, with all the wonderful ways it allows us to connect to friends and family far and wide,
has also largely contributed to a new online mob mentality that can be truly disheartening at times.
An anonymous, negative, collective consciousness that greys and smudges the horizons
between actions and personal accountability.
Now, cowards sit behind illuminated screens. They’re spiteful as they clack at keyboards with numb finger tips.
They incite hate as they comment, troll, and bully through careless words and ignorant opinions.
They say things that they would never have the courage to say to another human in person. Hiding behind touch-screens, their anonymity inflates their egos and any sense of self or accountability slips away almost effortlessly.
The internet has created virtual mobs where all sense of social responsibility is absent.
It’s now so easy to comment on something, attack a person or group, or be influenced by mob ideals.
No longer do we need to leave our home and join an angry mob to get angry about something together.
Instead, we can troll with other anonymous, insecure, and angry people to attack and bring down others, to spread only hate.
When most people write comments, tweet, or post something that attacks another person online,
they actually don’t feel as though they’re talking to another human being.
The virtual nature of these communications weaken ones sense of self and their social responsibility which,
more often than not, greatly impacts their respect for others feelings.
It’s as if all sense of humanity gets lost between screens and servers.
It’s now easier than ever to get infected by negative thoughts or bullied by digital egos.
Why is it that when we take away personal responsibility, some people slip into a dark, moral-less
world where social norms crumble away and our perception and judgements shift out of focus?
Is it because suddenly the edges of good and bad become undefined and concepts
like social integrity become shapeless forms open to interpretation?
Social psychology describes how we adjust our behavior or thinking to follow the behavior or rules of the group we belong to.
Typically, people conform because a various social influences or desires. Some of these influences and desires are respect for authority,
a fear of being different, a fear of rejection, or a desire for approval. Once we join a group, we are likely to conform to or comply with whatever the group decides, in order to fuel our need to be liked or feel like we belong.
When mobs form, they create a powerful influential factor that shapes a the character ones identity.
“Mob/herd” mentality describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors, follow trends, and/or
purchase specific items. The desire to join in on this group or, at the very least, be recognized by the group,
is an example of conformity.
Another lesson from social psychology is the influence others have on us. Research shows we do not have as much control over our thoughts and behavior as we think. We take cues from our environment and especially other people, on how to act.
We mostly rely on signals like popularity. A large reason that others influence us, to these extents, is that humans are social creatures.
We have survived because of our ability to band together. Early humans who formed groups were more likely
to live continuing the lineage of their blood line.
This highly affected the evolution of our psychology. In our evolutionary past, our ancestors were under constant threat. Keen awareness of others helped our ancestors survive in a dangerous and uncertain world. Modern humans have inherited
such adaptive behaviors as evolutionary “leftovers”. It’s innate and instinctual for us to regularly seek out and connect with others.
We also have a strong natural predilection to imitate one another’s behavior. We end up professing beliefs and acting out
in ways which we would have never otherwise done or considered independently.
Let’s consider the implications of this propensity for violence against others in the online world. We’ve already seen the mob effect on Twitter, where people’s lives have been ruined because others deemed that they had said the wrong thing. Twitter is often the ultimate example of dehumanizing someone—all you see is an avatar, which may or may not
be a picture of the person themselves, and their Twitter handle.
It’s often hypothesized that online trolling and harassment occurs because there is anonymity and a lack of
consequences for the perpetrator.
In most cases, one slogan or one propagandist phrase triggers such a strong reaction from participant in said movement.
The emotional bond becomes more important, and that’s what drives the whole group together.
When you’re having a conversation in person with someone and you disagree with them, you don’t just go nuclear in response,
even if their argument is stupid. Why? Because unless you’re a sociopath, people generally don’t like
hurting other people, physically or emotionally.
However, online your target is dehumanized. We can say horrible things and won’t see the effect it has on our victim.
We’re also not at risk of getting our ass kicked for pissing off the wrong person.
And that’s why, no matter who you are or what movement or group of people you identify with, you need to look thoroughly
within in yourself and confront this fact… you will do evil if the people around you are doing evil.
What we will not do as individuals we may do as part of a group. People may lose control of their usual inhibitions,
as their mentality becomes that of the category of masses . The larger the unit the greater the amplification of that group behavior.
However, some crowd behavior is peaceful, exemplified by Martin Luther King and Ghandi.
If the group behavior is violent, the larger the group the more magnified the violence.
All a riots are considered violent group behavior.
You have never heard of a peaceful riot because riots are, by definition, violent in nature.
The research findings show that as the number of people in a crowd increases,
the number of informed individuals DECREASES.
You are no longer completely responsible for what you are doing. In your head, you know you are one in maybe a 100.
If you burn a car alone, you will face consequences. But when you do it with so many others, you feel safe.
As a result, when many like-minded people get together, they reinforce each other’s ideologies and beliefs
regardless of reason and accuracy, and the end result is a more condensed, stronger, and fixed mindset about things.
Another reason why individuals have a tendency to align themselves with a certain group is to have a ‘sense of belonging’,
This sense of belonging plays a huge role in our self-identity. Also about fitting in and being accepted.
The fear of being an outcast alters people’s behavior.
It seems easier to be a part of a group than to stand alone.
Following others blindly or just ‘going with the flow’ may be beneficial, such as during emergency evacuations.
However, under many other circumstances like mob vigilantism or terrorism, it can rob people of their identities
and turn them into mere puppets.
While humans may be naturally inclined to conform (as various studies have proven time and again),
it is possible to maintain or stand by one’s own beliefs and ethics — even in difficult situations.
It’s time all of us examine ourselves and ask;
“Am I too caught up in everything to see reason?
Am I thinking for myself right now, or am I dismissing everything that doesn’t fit my narrative?”
‘Would I do the same if I was by myself?”
JAMIE C SPENCE, MHVB
PAIN PASSED ON..
The dark and brutal history of the U.S. is no secret.
It is common knowledge, in 2020, that throughout the 17th and 18th centuries,
African natives were kidnapped and forced into slavery in the still developing American colonies.
These individuals were mercilessly exploited to work as indentured servants and labor in the production of crops
such as tobacco and cotton.
The first documented slaves are thought to have been brought to Jamestown in the year 1619
(although some sources cite much earlier) and consisted of 20 men. By the mid-19th century,
America’s westward expansion and the abolition movement provoked a great debate over slavery
that would tear the nation apart in the bloody Civil War.
It wasn’t until the establishment of the 13th amendment in 1865, which abolished slavery in the United States of America,
freeing countless innocent lives that had been habitually dictated by severe and systematic oppression, trauma,
Though the Union victory freed the nation’s four million enslaved people,
the legacy of slavery continued to influence American history, from the Reconstruction era to the civil rights movement that
emerged a century after emancipation. However, that’s not quite where the story ends…
The word trauma in modern culture is defined as;
-A deeply distressing or disturbing experience.
-Emotional shock following a stressful event or a physical injury, which may be associated with physical shock
and sometimes leads to long-term neurosis (PTSD).
“Trauma” results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual
as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning
and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.
Trauma can occur throughout a person’s lifetime and there may be subsequent re-traumatizing experiences
that reinforce previous defenses but we will get to that later. We now know, through advances in neuroimaging, that experiencing trauma greatly alters and impairs the brain, as brain scans from a PTSD patients and a “neurotypical” brains have distinct differences which control how our brains function and therefor also control every other system of our body.
But the question we are answering today is;
Can traumatic experiences be passed down genetically??
And the answer seems to be yes!
Historical trauma is an event, or a set of events, that happen to a group of people who share a specific identity.
That identity could be based in nationality, tribal affiliation, ethnicity, race and/or religious affiliation.
The events are often done with genocidal or ethnocidal intent, and result in annihilation or disruption of traditional ways of life,
culture and/or identity.
Each individual event is profoundly traumatic and when you look at events as a whole, they represent a history of sustained cultural disruption and community destruction. I tend to define inter-generational trauma as a traumatic event that began years prior to the current generation and has impacted the ways in which individuals within a family understand, cope with, and heal from trauma.
The term “historical trauma” was coined by Native American social worker and mental health expert Maria Yellow Horse Braveheart in the 1980s. Braveheart's definition states that historical trauma “is cumulative emotional and psychological wounding, over the lifespan and across generations, emanating from massive group trauma.”
The effects of the traumas inflicted on groups of people because of their race, creed, and ethnicity linger on the souls of their descendants. As a result, many people in these same communities’ experience higher rates of mental and physical illness, substance abuse, and erosion in families and community structures.
The persistent cycle of trauma destroys family and communities and threatens the vibrancy of entire cultures.
Although few will ever make the link between these issues—our unexplained fear, anxiety, and depression
—and what happened to their family members in a previous generation.
Research exploring historical trauma looks at how the trauma of these events is “embodied” or held personally, chemically marked, and passed down over generations. Such that even family members who have not directly experienced the trauma can feel the effects of the events generations later. Individual trauma then becomes collective, as it affects a significant portion of the community and becomes compounded. Multiple historically traumatic events occur over generations and join an overarching legacy of assaults. The impact of these ongoing traumas has effects on a person’s brain and body, increasing their vulnerability to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental health disorders.
Historical trauma occurs at all levels—individual, family, and community. Although each level is distinct, they are all interrelated. Individual responses to historical trauma are influenced by the experiences/responses of family members; individual and familial experiences coalesce to make up the collective community response. Thus, actions at the individual and familial levels reinforce the way the community responds
"Historical trauma is not just about what happened then. It's about what's still happening now."
Transmission of trauma across generations was first seen in 1966 by clinicians who were alarmed by the number of children of people who had survived the Nazi Holocaust who were seeking mental health treatment. The trauma experienced by the Jewish people
in the Holocaust was being seen in poor mental and physical health outcomes in their descendant generations (children and grandchildren) that were conceived AFTER the trauma occurred. The children of Holocaust survivors were presenting with symptoms of PTSD, survivor guilt, anxiety, anger, grief, symptoms of depression, impaired self-esteem, a preoccupation with death, impaired communication, substance abuse, and exaggerated personal attachments or interdependence.
Since these early studies with the children of Holocaust survivors, scientists have also been gathering evidence showing that historical trauma has an impact at the cellular level. This body of evidence shows the neurological toll of stress on the
health of like future generations.
A powerful stressful environmental conditions can leave an imprint or “mark” on the cellular material that can be carried
into future generations with devastating consequences.
Family systems theory has long understood that the relational, behavioral, and emotional patterns across generations provide a broader understanding of us as individuals and our children. Trans-generational trauma refers to the ways that trauma
gets transferred from one generation to another either directly or indirectly.
Unresolved trauma of one generation is a legacy that can be passed down to the next generation.
Children and grandchildren are shaped by the genes they inherit from their relatives before birth, but new research is revealing that experiences of hardship or violence can leave their mark too. ...
For those who survived, the harrowing experiences marked many of them for life.
Humans possess the remarkable ability to adapt to diverse environments in order to optimize our chances of survival.
If we find ourselves in a threatening or harmful context, we make both conscious and unconscious choices that are geared
to protect us. Even after the threat has dissipated, we may continue to hold the effects of the trauma in our bodies and minds. And so our survival strategies persist.
Knowing how the human body holds onto this stress reminds us that we cannot ignore the social, historical or cumulative
experiences of stress and their impact on wellness. There is growing evidence that biological and psychological expressions
of historical trauma may be partly responsible for producing health disparities in a wide spectrum
of health outcomes from diabetes to PTSD.
The transmission of multi-generational trauma effects are not only psychological, familial, social and cultural, but could be neurobiological and possibly even genetic as well.
The newest research in modern genetics tells us that you and I can inherit gene changes from traumas that our parents and grandparents experienced. This adaptive change can then be passed down to our children and grandchildren biologically preparing them to deal with similar trauma.
If our grandparents, for example, were traumatized from slavery, theoretically, they could pass on a survivor “skill set” to us.
This skill set would be helpful were we were also born into slavery. However, living in a safe environment where this inheritance isn't useful, the constant hypervigilance can create havoc in our bodies.
Many Native Americans also suffer from historical and transgenerational trauma. The horror they suffered, that they still suffer, has left entire communities scarred. We can see the results of this trauma when we look at mental health statistics for Native people.
This form of persistent and subconscious trauma can have varied effects on individuals and populations that may include: unsettled trauma or grief, depression, high mortality, increase of alcohol abuse, child abuse and domestic violence.
So we are left with the question, how do we heal centuries of suffering?
How do you repair trauma that spans generations?
Where do we begin such a monumental task?
The first step is recognizing historical/intergenerational trauma is real, that entire communities can be (and have been)
traumatized and that trauma can be passed from one generation to the next.
The next step is to have more discussions with communities who suffer from historical trauma and listen to how
they feel their mental health needs can be better met.
It is because of deep seated historical trauma that cultural variables need to be considered when
making a mental health treatment plan.
One of the barriers for some seeking treatment for mental health issues is a lack of culturally competent providers.
Native Americans, African Americans, and other marginalized groups of people who have suffered historical trauma,
will need to speak up about their experiences.
Mental health care providers should learn more about historical and intergenerational trauma and give those
who are suffering from it a safe space to talk about their struggles.
Certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Practitioner
Mental Health VB
When I was going through my psych/mental health classes/rotation, one professor told us that "all" suicide attempts are caused by a precursing mental illness, but after actually being in the field for several years, I've found this to be categorically untrue. That professor should certainly change that particular high point to.. "Most" suicide attempts are caused by a precursing mental illness." And we could break that down even further by saying that at least half of most mental illness are caused by environmental factors (any kind of trauma or emotionally poor living conditions, particularly at the hands of another person.) as genetics comprise only about a 50% predictor of future mental illness.
The nature vs. nurture debate is dead. The majority of research scientists have undoubtedly confirmed that the outcome of ones life is comprised about 50/50 when decided between genetics and environment. There are many people whose parents or siblings suffer from mental illness, that do not develop the disease and live happy and normal lives. These individuals, are generally people who have been shown adequate amounts of love and compassion throughout their lives and rarely go through a severe trauma, and when they do, they have a multiple members of family and/or friends to support them, and as you will see; this is key to a healthy mindset.
However, certainly not everyone is so fortunate.
Even our earliest predecessors brains are, were, and always have been wired to be social creatures. This is why humans thrive in numbers and more solitary lifestyles have, on average, a lower life expectancy than heavily social ones. We are psychologically linked in so many ways just by our biology alone. We are even born with special receptors in the brain called "mirror neurons," that are specifically meant for reading people by instincts, body language, and facial expressions. Mirror neurons are what allow us to feel other peoples pain so we will be motivated instinctively not only to to help this person, but alsoteaching us to avoid that same situation that caused their pain, to subconsciously attempt to ensure our own survival. This is just one of the many ways that our brains protect us. For example, I don't have to touch the fire to know that it hurts... I just have to see you touch the fire to know that it hurts, protecting me from getting burnt. Without these special neurons, it would be impossible to learn from our fellow man's mistakes and would be unlikely that our species even survived, nevertheless evolved into what we have become. We would not have these tiny structures, if they served no purpose as they would take up unnecessary space and energy for such an intricate biological machine that keeps us alive and able to procreate.
I believe that loneliness is the real silent assailant responsible for suicidal tendencies.
Because of our unique brain chemistry, isolating one's self for long periods of time is never good for a stable emotional state and
9 times out of 10, people begin to learn this coping style as a defense mechanism because so many people, in their particular life, have treated them exceptionally poorly or as if they didn't exist at all.
Our brains simply don't process such emotions as abandonment (physical or emotional) very well because from an evolutionary standpoint, we weren't meant for that. Just like wolves, sheep, geese, and all other creatures that naturally come together to form groups, we are basically just pack animals.
I truly believe that emotional abuse and/or neglect (friends, spouses, family) takes even more lives than physical abuse does, we just notice the physical more because it's far easier to blame someone for something that you can actually see them doing. Because there's visible physical evidence of their callousness, especially when talking about outward violence, we will instinctively identify that person as a threat and usually at least try to take the appropriate measures to get our loved one away from danger. But emotional abuse is very easily and often concealed, so friends or family don't even know that something is very wrong, and the blame falls on the victims "crazy" which causes even more isolation and the cycle sometimes continues until it's too late.
It's just easier to blame the victim because they can no longer explain to anyone what happend to them,
let alone the PEOPLE who catalyzed that death.