Why are we seeing so many protests and riots across the world today?
These protests have been raging off and on for the last decade. Why?
Why weren’t we protesting this much in the 90s or the 80s?
I’ll tell you why.
Social media wasn’t available back then. There are some very good reasons why protesting and social media are a perfect match for each other. EHarmony can’t find a better match.
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There is a large subset of our society who have never taken social media very seriously. They see social media like a flash in the pan — much like those long-haired rock bands were back in the 60s and 70s. (Interesting how many of those bands are still around.)
For those doubters, let us examine 3 specific ways that social media is fueling mob mentality.
1) Ability to Pre-Energize Mobs
In the old days, a group would gather at a location for a cause. It was there that they would stoke and feed off the emotions of one another.
These emotions transformed the protesters into a mob.
Social media has removed the initial step of injecting emotion into the crowd. Protesters are arriving at locations already stoked to become mobs.
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An example of this is flash mobs.
Flash mobs were initially movements that used social media to organize groups of people to appear at predetermined locations at a specific time. Early flash mobs assembled for entertainment and artistic expression. But they later evolved into groups who overwhelmed businesses and law enforcement to commit crimes.
2) Exploit the Human Need to Be Liked
The human need to be liked and accepted is incredibly strong. This is one of our strongest instincts as our ancient ancestors understood that we are safer in groups.
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To be accepted on social media means the world to many people. If you have been paying attention, then you have witnessed the numerous emotional outbursts and fatalities that have occurred because of online rejection and bullying.
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People who are desperate to belong are very susceptible to causes. They are quick to recognize that when they post hateful and radical comments online, they get immediate praise and acceptance — and it feels good.
Acceptance is like a drug to them and they want more — so they up the ante. The emotion of their posts become more irrational with each new posting. Now consider what happens when hundreds (if not thousands) of insecure people are high on acceptance, and they converge on a common cause — willing to please the mob.
3) Media Input
In recent years, the mainstream media has played a huge role in mob violence. While most everyone supports our right to protest, some of us fail to recognize when a peaceful protest has become a full-blown riot.
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Media members tend to encourage protests that support their causes. Yet they refuse to acknowledge it when these protests become violent.
Mainstream media then begins justifying the actions of the mob on social media. The mob becomes more empowered because the media has validated its violent activities. As a result, the mob becomes even more violent.
Looting and violence typically perpetuate and even are copied elsewhere when the media and public authority explain away the behavior as “anger” and “disenchantment” by “disaffected youth.” Such messages carry with them an entitlement that legitimizes lawlessness.
I love social media and the way it has connected our entire planet. I see many great things coming in the future because of social media.
But we can’t ignore the ways that it is damaging society as well.