Online spaces and content can bring us a lot of joy, but they can also cause harm and pain. Here are some important things to remember about being trauma-informed online with ourselves, with others, and with the content we encounter. Being trauma-informed means taking into consideration a person’s experience of trauma and their reactions to it.
#1) Pictures of outwardly happy smiling faces don’t always mean people are happy and smiling inside.
It’s easy to assume that everyone else is living exciting, fun-filled lives when scrolling social media. These platforms have been known to produce FOMO like feelings (or fear of missing out). A research study found that the more time students spent on Facebook, the more they felt that others were leading a more fulfilling life than they did. Fun photos may lead us to believe that our friends, loved ones, or acquaintances are happy and doing well, when deep down, they may not be. Remember that one second out of someone else’s life captured by a photo doesn’t constitute their permanent situation, mood, or feelings. We have no idea what others might be going through in life and can’t tell that information by looking at their social media.
#2) Always imagine the one person you are helping.
When making the decision to engage online, it’s important to think about how impactful you are. You have the ability to do wonderful things in the world, like help someone else feel less alone, introduce a new perspective to society, or create meaningful change for others through offering support and creating community. Even if one person sees you or your content and feels better for it, that is a great gift to the world.
#3) Don’t assume trolls are a majority opinion.
Negative feedback often speaks louder than positive comments. This is because of how our brains are wired. Research indicates that we are far more likely to remember negative comments than we are positive ones, and this changes the way we process incoming information about compliments or criticisms. For example, you may give a presentation at your work, and afterwards the audience is given feedback cards. Let’s imagine that 97 out of 100 people found the presentation to be great, while three people left unfavorable or harsh comments. Most people will spend exceptionally more time thinking about the negative reviews than remembering that the overwhelming majority of people gave good reviews. This is called negativity bias, and we must actively be aware of it to negate the harm it’s doing.
#4) Assume every person you encounter is having the worst day of their life.
Anonymous strangers are people too. Although this is not meant to excuse the behavior, victims of online harassment may find comfort in the fact that the behavior is a reflection of the abuser’s inability to manage difficult emotions more so than of any fault on the victim. Being trauma-informed means we know that every person we meet is carrying a very heavy burden, and as such, we first give them the benefit of the doubt in assuming they are doing the very best they can under conditions we may not fully understand.
Leave a comment