Does Social Media elicit a knee-jerk reaction?

Does Social Media elicit a knee-jerk reaction?

Social Media has the power to educate and unite people, but it can also be undeniably loud. The initial philosophy behind Social Media was that it "gives a voice to the voiceless". But the ability for everyone to post what they think or how they feel, all gets a bit shouty. 

When Nike placed new mannequins in the window of its London flagship store, the internet trolls came out in their droves. The loudest troll was British journalist Tanya Gold, who wrote for The UK Telegraph that the new mannequin "heaves with fat" and is "glorifying obesity".  

Social Media reacted. Many responders were plus-sized models and body activists who shared the same sentiments: any body of any shape can exercise and fat-phobia only leads women to extreme measures of weight loss like fad diets or surgery and can trigger mental health issues.

Women all over the world got behind the #bodypositivity, proclaiming no person should be bullied out of exercise. Bullied.

The passion behind putting an internet troll in their place is definitely sincere. However, when something like a journalist writing an article - who's profile picture only confirms she's poking the bear - intelligent, mature people should have reacted like a parent toward a tantruming toddler: ignored her.  

The only response - from a small few on Social Media - should have mirrored Gold's shade of petty: "A mannequin is a glorified coat hanger. You're angry over shaped plastic, really?"

Done. Boil it down to the most simple and nonchalant tone and you take away any power the troll thought they had. Gold's opinion was so stupid, everyone should have laughed at their phones and not start typing a response.

What if we had read Gold's piece in a physical newspaper, would we have cared? Or, what if Gold was stood outside the store, shouting "heaves with fat", would you have turned and engaged in an agreement? No. Because in the real world, you see things, like Gold's opinion, for what they are, pathetic. You'd simply give an all-consuming side eye and walk past her like it's water off a duck's back. 

So why can't we do that on Social Media?

Community: Linking back to it's initial philosophy, Social Media engages team spirit and increases the chance of being successful in it. It's all about bias. Chances are that if you talk to who share the same feelings, people will reinforce your idea. 

Biology: Social Media is actually addictive thanks to two chemicals in our brains: Dopamine and Oxytocin

Scientists revealed that Dopamine is a want chemical. It causes us to seek and desire, driven by unpredictability and incremental bits of information with rewards - what Social Media fundamentally is. Oxytocin aka the "cuddle chemical" is released when we hug or kiss In 10 minutes of Social Media time, oxytocin levels can rise up to 13%.  

Essentially, Social Media gives us a cheeky little high when we post to "our community" and it's really hard not to want more. 

Maybe everyone was coming at rebutting Gold the wrong way. Maybe not #bodypositivity rather body neutrality. Simply put, body neutrality recognises what your body does for you and not how it appears. Body neutrality is about seeing your body as a vehicle that, when treated with care, can help you get from A to B. Not thinking you look good or bad, just being content that it works.

So, how do we try to be less reactionary and see the bigger picture?

It's easy: read between the line, look at what the troll is really trying to get at and just roll your eyes.

With Gold, her piece wasn't about what mannequins should be in stores, rather she wanted to lure people into a debate about health so she could fire off a bullets of statistics about obesity or whatever. But if everyone adopted the water of a duck's back approach, then eventually, trolls won't be able to participate in the normal social discourse and will become severed with zero impact.

Sometimes, the unbridled determination of activism looks more performative than revolutionary and wastes a whole lot of unnecessary energy. Remember, our planet is dying and you all had an argument about a coat hanger. Priorities.  


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