You have heard of psychology, but have you looked into the fascinating area of cyber psychology? This field investigates our digital behaviour, revealing how we navigate the online environment and how it informs our offline activities. Social media is a strong tool for connecting and sharing information with our social networks. However, it is also a place where people sometimes show irrational behaviour. This could be owing to the internet’s anonymity or the lack of immediate consequences. Anonymity, accountability, and the perception of free speech all play a role in this phenomenon, providing a sense of freedom and protection. While this is beneficial, it can also lead to unusual behaviour, as discussed below.
The Need for Attention
Social media is a great way to get attention. People can post pictures, share their thoughts, and comment on other people’s posts. According to a recent study, young adults spend an average of 5.5 hours daily on social media platforms. This is nearly a third of a person’s daily active hours. The more attention they get, the more validation they feel. Unfortunately, some people will go to extreme lengths to get attention. This can mean posting outrageous things, trolling, or even making up lies. It is all to get noticed, even if it means acting stupid.
A former Miss Universe finalist is an apt example of this. She actively provides tips and masterclasses on sociopathic manipulation. In her many TikTok videos and Instagram reels, she openly states that she is a high-functioning sociopath (ASPD) and narcissist (NPD). In an interview, she said she enjoyed the boost in confidence her videos gave her because her objective has always been to empower and educate women. She is especially thrilled when women tell her they utilised her counsel to advance in their careers or teach someone who mistreated them a lesson. She also happens to be a professor at a well-known university. I am curious about what would motivate a beauty queen to promote such deceitful tactics on social media. Fame? Attention? I suppose you are wise enough to make that decision.
The boost in confidence leads to indirect validation, which most social media users secretly need. Apparently, this is why they are behaving stupidly for it in the first place. This validation in the form of likes or rewards conjunction constructs reinforcements for behavioural stimuli, meaning promotion and advice for individual actions. This action-reaction mechanism promoted by the likes system and the intensely interactive design of social media converts the individual’s attention into activity or behaviour. Moreover, with repetition and constant feedback, it leads to an addiction to the platform’s systemic gratification itself. That’s why individuals who do stupid things once continue to do stupid things because they gain validation through likes, shares, and views. No wonder cringe content is popular.
The Lack of Consequences
In our actual world, our actions always have consequences. If you do something wrong, you will have to pay the price. However, there are barely any real-world consequences for things people do on social media. People get a false sense of security due to this; they believe they can do whatever they want. As a result, people behave in ways they would never do in real life. You might not believe me here, but I am sure you have already seen many videos where famous people have posted content doing cringe-worthy and ridiculous things. Somebody is sliding in the mud for fun, while one famous YouTuber dressed himself as a pregnant lady.
Simple comments on a specific post regarding whether “Veg Biryani Exists” can often turn into a massive war with real facts from who-knows-where on the internet. They have no idea they are boosting that specific post because of the spike in comments. But, as foolish as humans can be, they will go to any length to prove they are correct. The existence of anonymity also leads to a lack of accountability in individuals who engage in dumb behaviour on social media. The absence of physical communication elements such as gaze, body language, and emotional responses is a barrier to mutual comprehension. They can, however, enable us to customise our digital selves to different audiences. It can, however, be used for deceitful, hostile, or even criminal purposes.
The Need to Fit In
Social media platforms are a terrific way to feel like you belong. People can form groups and follow others who have similar interests. This can be an excellent way to connect with others, but it can also lead to people acting silly to fit in. Some people may act in ways they would not typically to appear cool or fit in with a group. They may make up stories, post ridiculous things, or troll people to appear cool or accepted. A new trend emerges, and the (m)asses follow. They get so caught up trying to fit in that they act, dance, and behave strangely. If they do not, they suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out). The action of social media that feeds the desire for its usage and sends regular notifications preserves and increases user anxiety. “Something is happening, and I might be missing it,” determines FOMO. This all connects to the Need for Attention, as doing something that everyone is doing would give them more attention.
Ultimately, people act stupid on social media for a variety of reasons. They frequently act in ways they would not generally because of the anonymity of the internet, craving for attention, absence of real-world consequences, or the need to fit in. What are our options? Sit back, relax, and probably grab some food to munch on while you watch the stupidity flourish. And be as cautious when investing your time in developing stupid content as you are when investing your money.
NOTE: Stupid behaviour is subject to virtual repercussions; think twice before you post stupid content online.