Why are we such whingers once we're on the internet?

IT'S amazing how, if you're ever feeling good about life, you can rely on Facebook to pull you back down a peg or two.

Ever noticed how disgracefully people behave towards each other on Facebook?

Total strangers hurl the most disgusting insults at each other, things you couldn't imagine civilised people saying if they were in the real world.

It's depressing.

We have all seen them online, the regulars who carpet-bomb every community post with comments, picking fights and insulting people.

I don't mean trolls - people who set out to upset people simply for fun. That's a column for another time, but they're really the only resistance to the people I'm talking about.

There's actually a page whose administrator stalks my Twitter feed and publishes posts, some of which people find semi-humorous, poking fun at Bulletin stories.

But I'm talking about people who think so highly of their own opinions that they feel compelled to inform complete strangers of their superior morals or knowledge.

It's a fairly common personality defect out here in the real world but it's amplified online.

It's what fuels community pages and groups dedicated to outing people who park in disabled bays, shaming businesses where people have had a bad experience or publicising poor driving.

It's a bit like little lunch on the first day at a new school, where people try to assert their superiority, often by putting others down.

It's about making themselves look good and others look bad and "likes" are just the same as other kids pointing and laughing.

We all get a sick satisfaction from observing people's interactions online - lurking, they call it - because it's like having ringside seats at a fight.

For many people it's as much to do with seeing people fall or watch as they fly off the handle screaming at a total stranger over a trivial issue.

It's outrage porn and everyone's addicted, whether we like it or not.

You've probably wondered whether those who engage in these things have anything better to do with their lives and your assumption is generally right - sadly, they don't.

And so we have seen the emergence of this great negative pall across all social media, but especially Facebook.

I've written before how the echo chambers of Facebook are safe spaces for certain accepted opinions and snake pits for anyone with a different perspective.

Cheer up, Facebook whingers.
Cheer up, Facebook whingers.

There is no easier way to get in a furious argument than to offer a counterpoint to the accepted wisdom on a Facebook post.

The problem with this mentality, and what Facebook has helped promote, is toxic negativity and the rise of the whinger.

People generally are much more motivated to point out negatives than they are to voice their support for something positive.

It's just a fact of life.

Had a great cup of coffee?

Well that's expected and you are not likely to post something nice about it on the cafe's Facebook page. But if they gave you almond milk instead of soy, people these days will go to great lengths to publicise their outrage at the offence caused by this minor error.

And sadly that's often the first response - online fury - instead of simply asking the business to address your (let's face it) minor problems.

We see whingers slam every new development in Townsville, screaming "water!" when a solution (that's debatable, but still) is literally in the pipeline.

They shriek about the new stadium, the need for a waterpark (or the idiocy of that idea, given the water situation), that there's nothing to do in Townsville, etc, etc.

It's never-ending and, sadly, negativity is contagious.

Facebook makes us angry and now it seems it's also contributing to some far more serious social and health problems.

New information direct from Facebook last week shows even the people running the social network are concerned people's time using the site is having adverse effects on their health, relationships and mental wellbeing.

According to the findings, people who "lurk" and don't interact feel worse than people who click, like and comment on everything they see.

Work is also being put into increasing the quality of our interactions online, but Facebook rejects suggestions its popularity-based ecosystem is driving us apart by reducing our interactions to clicks of a "like" button.

People are experimenting with social media detoxing as a way to separate their eyeballs from their phone screens for a few minutes a day and I reckon that's a great idea.

So put the phone down, go for a walk, say g'day to your neighbours and appreciate that we live in paradise up here in the North.

You'll cheer up in no time.


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