Hardly anyone in our history would have imagined a future in which the world would be connected in the way it is today. When the internet was introduced to us in the 90s, it gave all of us the ability to connect with anyone anywhere in the world.
The vision behind the launch of the internet was that everyone would be able to share their knowledge and ideas, and everyone else would be able to access all that information. Since then, a major part of everything from education to entertainment has significantly shifted to the internet. While the internet has been a great means to interact and learn from anyone around the world, it has slowly become the place where most disputes take place, and remarks are made that offend others on the platform.
We have all felt offended by someone’s comment at some point in our lives, and there have also been instances when someone else got offended by our remark. The worst part, this mostly happens when we have absolutely no intention of hurting the other person. Researchers have discovered that words alone are not necessarily what makes a statement offensive but a whole lot of other reasons.
While impolite statements can be greatly hurtful, it’s mostly a combination of the context and interpretation that makes a statement offensive. Even a compliment can be interpreted as offensive if the other person has a negative approach towards understanding it (“did you mean that you do not think I am smart enough when you said you didn’t expect me to solve all the questions?”). The act of taking offense involves one getting hurt when the other person’s views or actions contradict what he/she thinks is right, acceptable, or morally correct. This implies that getting offended roots in our everyday expectations.
Has it always been like this?
Is it the age of the internet that has given rise to hurtful statements? Is it only now that people have started getting offended? Well, the answer is probably ‘no’. Even in earlier times, disagreements were pretty common and people expressed their disagreement whenever they got the chance. Today, that chance has greatly increased. Earlier people could only express their resentment to their family, friends, or colleagues. But today everyone has easy access to platforms where they can share their views and express rage on even the smallest of matters in minutes.
Similarly, people who put forward their views and end up offending others do so because access to a means like an internet which takes your voice to millions around the world is available to them 24/7. The anonymity of the internet to express oneself without having to worry about the impact of his/her actions is also the reason why people are more insensitive while making statements about serious matters.
What’s at the core of feeling offended?
If we talk about the major reason why people feel offended even by statements that were not meant to be hurtful, we will see that it’s always about something that is important to us or has been a very significant part of our lives. We feel offended when someone unaware of our struggle or the importance that a particular subject holds in our lives, makes a remark that from our perspective devalues or demeans it.
It’s our hidden past insecurities that make us more sensitive towards certain kinds of remarks and abandonment than we ever realize. While it is already difficult to realize what kinds of remarks or actions can hurt our ego, it becomes almost impossible for others to identify what kinds of actions or statements hold a tendency to offend you.
When other people’s comments do not express the same respect and views as us about the matter that we are strongly attached to, we feel hurt. This is often the case because, instead of realizing that our hurt is resulting from our insecurities and defensive nature, we blame others for being bad people. As we cannot control or argue with every other person for not sharing our views, we should reflect upon our thoughts and try to separate ourselves from getting engaged in arguments in the event of disagreement with others.
We can surely provide other people with the piece of information that we think they are lacking. However, while doing this, we should also be mindful of the fact that we intend to help others understand a new viewpoint and let them have the freedom to accept or reject it. We must separate ourselves from the agenda at hand so that others’ disagreement does not feel like a personal attack on us or our beliefs.
For instance, let’s say as a child you were mocked a lot by other children for having bad football skills. And now you are so insecure about your skills that when one day your friend innocently tells you about a boy on his team who has never scored a single goal, you might get a feeling that your friend is indirectly mocking your football skills.
How to stop yourself from being emotionally hurt?
The internet is no longer just a place where data is shared and accessed by people around the globe, it has now become a lot more personal and crucial part of all of our lives. It is a virtual world where we spend a significant portion of our lives. From work and entertainment to socializing with old friends and making new ones, every major activity has taken a digital form. At a place where we have been spending so much of our precious time, everything might seem a little too personal. However, there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself from getting hurt by the happenings of this virtual world.
See if a particular matter holds importance in your life or not: Whenever you feel the urge to express your resentment or anger against a comment or a remark made by someone on the internet, give yourself a minute or two to analyze the situation to see if that remark is capable of affecting your present or future, if it is then you can surely engage with them. But if it isn’t, it is best to not waste your time and energy by getting involved in useless arguments on social media.
Give the person whose remark hurt you, the benefit of the doubt: You need to remember that most people on the internet don’t even know you which means they hardly have any reason to intentionally hurt you. So, in the situations you feel attacked by someone on the internet, ask yourself, what exactly about this person’s remark was so hurtful to me? What if he/she just lacked better words to express their thoughts?
Do not expect much from others on the internet: As the internet is a worldwide platform, you would find all sorts of people. They have different backgrounds, experiences, and mindsets than you do, so it seems kind of superficial that you will only find good people and those who share your views. Also, not expecting all of them to be sensible, empathetic, and respectful toward you is a much more realistic approach while interacting with strangers online.
Conclusively, the best way to prevent getting offended online is to build your self-esteem and confidence. Doing so will help you not get affected by others’ insensitivity toward you. And in case you find any truth in their negative criticisms about you, you would be able to take it as constructive criticism and work to make yourself better.