Social Media and Cyber Disinhibition

This is part of a post I wrote exactly eight years ago this week. I’m updating it a little but not by much. Most of my original message still stands. A lot has changed in our world, but sadly, my plea for people to shift their actions on social media, although many call for this same change, has not happened.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John  13: 34-35

In 2012, we had an election looming over us, just as we do today. Today, we suffer through the same bombardment of annoying political ads on TV and radio. Back then, I avoided them by using my DVR. Now I use streaming services and avoid most commercials. What’s a little harder to avoid, now as well as then, is the onslaught of personal attacks on social media. That, my friends, is worse, not better. Below is what I said about this:

Part of My 2012 Post

Why do my “friends” think I need to read every little bit of political propaganda that they find?  Some people choose to only post political comments during this time, and not just one a day. The frequency that some of them post these comments begs the questions:  “Do they have a life?  Are they doing anything else?” [2020 note, I know for many, thanks to Covid-19, they don’t.]

I don’t know why they think I want to log on to Facebook and read their political rants.  Granted, I can scroll right on past those messages, but it’s  frustrating when I have to scroll forever to find something friendly and non-political.

These people seem to have forgotten that Facebook and Twitter are forms of social media.  Social, not political.  Usually, when I hear the word social, I think of friendly gatherings, not attacks on people’s belief systems.  Unfortunately, those who seem bent on non-stop political posts often make derogatory comments about the people who disagree with them. In many cases, these are the very friends who turn around and like your baby and animal pictures.  Do they not realize how their negative comments alienate their friends and cancel out any good will from their “likes”?  In some cases, I’ve unfriended “friends” who forced their opinions on me non-stop.

We are a country of free speech.  You have the right to believe what you want to believe, but what happened to good manners?

What’s Changed Since Then?

In 2020, I have a better understanding of what’s happening to people online. I spend a good bit of time researching materials for training topics. A few months ago, while reading a white paper on Emotional Intelligence, I ran across a new term: cyber disinhibition. This phenomena explains why people say cruel and nasty things to each other online. Things they’d never say to a person face-to-face.

What is cyber disinhibition?

People are wired for face-to-face interaction. Communications online do not engage our brains properly. Cyber disinhibition—the situation that occurs when our treatment of others online doesn’t align with how we would treat them in person–is the culprit behind these angry social media attacks.

What causes cyber disinhibition?

When we’re face-to-face with someone, we have emotional centers of the brain that record everything the other person is saying and doing. This happens quickly, and unconsciously, in the brain’s subcortex. The brain processes this information and tells us how to respond. During this process, the prefrontal cortex inhibits any emotional impulse to do or say something that can hurt the other person. Online, without body language or tone, we’re flying blind. We’re not engaging these parts of the brain, so we lash out and say very unkind things.

This knowledge makes me feel better. Why? Because I can observe the text battles online through this lens. I, also, can force myself to think twice before I post. Those who don’t pause and think are, at that moment, behaving without emotional intelligence.

In John 13, Jesus washed the disciples feet and then told them to love one another. He asked them to do this, so people would see their love as an aspect of being one of his disciples. Try to keep this command in your mind when you venture onto social media, and maybe, you’ll avoid posting something you would never say in person.

Be kind. Be compassionate. Be forgiving.

The Best-Laid Plans…Of God’s

The last two weeks have exhausted me, but I’m not alone. School started this past Monday. That’s enough to add stress to every parent dealing with new educational plans, not to mention all of the teachers and school administrators.

This idiom came to me over and over in the last week:

The best-laid plans of mice and men…

The Bible says it better:

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9

Why that particular idiom and verse?

We had planned our course about school for the grands. I wrote a post two weeks ago about letting go of my worries over that decision. Worrying doesn’t change the outcome. It only takes time away from your life. You can’t respond to a “what if” unless it happens.

On Thursday of last week, it happened.

The school posted my granddaughter’s final schedule that morning. One of her Honors classes was missing. The promised alert from the school district letting us know a course wasn’t available virtually did not come. I found out because I paused to check for final updates to her schedule.

Another idiom that came to me over the last week:

The devil is in the details.

And he is. He delights in messing us up. He likes to push us. And he did.

But God had a plan. I will be the first to admit, my frustration tried to get the better of me, but I didn’t have time to be angry. I got it under control, prayed, and went into action.

I started reaching out to people for help and discovered the virtual school was so new that contacts for help, besides their all-purpose info line, didn’t exist. Even the one administrator who appeared on her schedule didn’t have voicemail set up. I sent an email, knowing that we were beyond the time frame of waiting on an answer.

I turned to the school she would attend if we’d opted for the other option. They responded quickly, thank goodness.  In fact, three different people reached out to me within the hour and followed up with me throughout the day to be sure we covered everything. We found out, thanks to them and their inside contacts, that this particular Honors course was not offered in the virtual school. The solution took time to work out, but we did work it out.

Changes to her plans meant I needed to make changes for her brother. For multiple reasons that came to light a few days earlier, I suspected I needed a new plan for him, anyway.

All of this happened on Thursday. School started the next Monday.

Thanks to fast actions from the brick and mortar schools, I managed to get things straightened out. Not only that, but my grandson ended up with the best teacher-the one everyone wants their child to get.  She’s, also, a Christian and calls for grace as we struggle through these crazy changes. Grace for the kids as they adapt to new ways of attending school. Grace for her as she adapts to a new way of teaching. Grace for the parents as they struggle with work and at home e-learning several days a week. She’s amazing. If I’d managed to correct his school situation ten minutes earlier, we would have gotten a different teacher.  If I’d made a different decision about his education in July, we might not have gotten her either.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21

God knows the best timing. He knows how to guide our steps toward his purpose.

My granddaughter was not happy about the solution we came up with, but God provided blessings for her, too. One, she got the Honors class she needed (and really wanted more than any other class), and two, she gets more time with her best friend whom she’s seen very little of since March.

And for me? I received several signs from God that told me this is the right decision made at the right time.

I’m not faulting the virtual program and those involved in setting it up. It’s new. They are struggling with a whole new way of doing things and doing the best they can. Things fall through the cracks. They, too, need grace.


Leaving Worry Behind

In my last post, I was struggling to decide how to proceed with our grandchildren’s education this school year. I found myself leaning one way but worrying about the repercussions of each option. There is no easy answer to this situation. Everyone knows that at this point.

This morning, I was listening to the Sermon on the Mount, and the following verse jumped out at me:

 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

We made our decision two weeks ago. We had no choice. The deadline was upon us. We’re doing virtual for now. My grandson will participate in a micro-school with two other children. They will have someone available to monitor their progress and help if needed. While he does that, I can work without constantly stopping to make sure he’s staying focused and on track. This option, also, meets his social needs. My granddaughter is self-motivated, so she’ll attend virtually from home.

Since making this decision, I’ve not worried as much…until this week. Why? My granddaughter has been in contact with her friends, and she misses them. Most of her friends opted for the hybrid in-person/e-learning option. I’m not concerned about the educational impact. The virtual option guarantees teacher access throughout the school day. The e-learning part of the other option does not. I’m concerned about her friendships. She’s been very lonely this summer. I began to worry if her friendships will survive.

Then my Bible app read Matthew 6:34. These words spoken by Jesus over 2000 years ago comforted me. Worry will not change things. We made the best decision we could. No one knows the future. I know for some of you, not worrying is a tough undertaking. I don’t tend to worry a lot, but there are times when my internal thoughts chip away at my soul. This verse, and the ones preceding it, came for me at the right time.

As Jesus says, each day has enough trouble of its own.

I hope you are well and safe and not worrying.



As a side note, I uploaded a video of me reading one of my short stories about domestic violence on YouTube a few weeks ago. It’s not Christian-themed, so if you decide to listen to it, keep that in mind.  But since I’ve written about domestic violence many times on this blog, I thought I’d share the story. You can find it here.