I Thought They Were Nice. Then I Read Their Social Media
Have you ever shaken your head in wonder at someone’s social media post? You thought they were a nice person but here they are seemingly trying to offend or insult others by their rude and hurtful comments. My husband was sharing an experience like this with me the other morning. We were noticing how it seems to be happening more than ever.
I realized that some of the psychology and neuroscience I’ve been learning has given me a whole new perspective on why this happens.
Usually, this person is passionate about a certain topic; let’s say politics. With this passion comes strong emotions, especially when they get triggered by something in the news, a discussion with friends, or even another social media post. Now their body is flooded with cortisol. Their brain sends out signals that this is an emergency. There is no time to think or reason. It’s all about survival and the “fight or flight” response. The reasoning part of their prefrontal cortex shuts down because that takes too much time and energy in a survival situation. The brain is now fully relying upon it’s more primitive instincts. In a previous post, I called this the Cortisol Demons.
This is not a good time to make a decision, take action, or even say anything. Yet, our survival instinct is strongly urging us that action is needed. We are in danger! And so, in our emotional state, we attack. We write how we are feeling and then we post it. We don’t see it as an insult or rudeness. Even after our emotions calm down, we see it as justified because we have a strong need to be right.
Here’s the scary part. When people act out of strong emotions instead of thoughtful reason, there is a domino effect. It’s contagious. And it can escalate. Instead of just words, it can become action. Think road rage.
But when we strengthen our emotional muscles, we can pause and notice that we are flooded with cortisol. And then we can realize we should wait to post, to speak, and to act until we can calmly evaluate the impact and choose a respectful, helpful response.
Awareness is the first step. This week be on the lookout for other people’s emotional reactions and see if you can catch yourself before you say or do something that only feeds the Cortisol Demons.