Just this past week I came upon two entirely unnecessary posts that actually took some effort to post. One was a picture of a famous woman (although not known to me) that showed her cleavage in a low-cut outfit. Now…if the post had been complimentary, I might have noted it and scrolled on by, appreciating the woman’s assets, but no this poster had to point out how the woman’s breasts sagged. The second post was a rant about how there are only two genders. The post actually stated that “Mandating a widespread enabling of a psychological disorder is widespread sociopathy.” And there were plenty of individuals to jump on the bandwagon to reinforce the meanness. Then after I posted my response…a ton more continued to spew propaganda about gender-affirming care.
This got me thinking why? Why would people go out of their way to be mean? To bully? To manipulate, harass, etc? So I went to my go-to place to try to find answers…yup…I googled the psychology of meaness! And here is what I found.
- Contrary to popular belief that meaness is the result of a person with low esteem, studies have shown the opposite. Children who are mean have high self-esteem, sometimes to the point of narcissism. (Remind you of anyone – perhaps a loud-mouthed politician – there are actually many to choose from?)
- That same study indicated that the children were also highly shame-prone. The article went on to say that this hubris in individuals with high self-esteem leads them to withhold empathy and temporarily disavow their own shame.
- Most people can be mean as evidenced by the famous obedience study where participants were instructed to shock another human being to the point of physical harm, and 70% followed those instructions without question.
- Meaness is more noticeable than niceness. Since our brains are wired to survival then we notice meaness because we are more sensitive to things that could harm us. The hopefulness in this is that there is more niceness in the world, but it doesn’t get highlighted or noticed as much as meaness. Perhaps we should change that.
- Meaness is rewarded. This is especially true now with social media. But, think about it…who gets noticed and rewarded with their outrageous comments these days? It used to be that individuals would be shamed for their meaness, but that has completely changed Not only do their mean comments fail to generate a ton of pushback (we try). But instead, these people are rewarded with fame and fortune. These rewards start early in life. Just think of the popular mean girls. If a person wants to be in the “in-crowd” that usually means picking on someone and bullying them. The peer pressure to be mean is built into the high school pecking order.
I don’t have all the answers, but one thing I know for sure is that every time I see one of those posts, I will do my darndest to change the conversation. To confront the meaness. Even the subtle meaness needs to be reframed. The “don’t you hate it when” posts are just another form of meaness in my humble opinion. This is the reason why I always try to reframe those conversations when someone starts a post about what people hate in WLW fiction. Trust me…us authors beat ourselves up enough with what we could improve in our manuscripts. Those posts hurt people and sometimes cause authors to go beyond the inherent self-doubt and bleed into questions about whether they should continue to write. Here’s the thing…kindness costs nothing and can actually be the difference between someone quitting or continuing to write those beloved novels. A few kind words always prompt me to continue on…to know that I’ve reached someone absolutely made all the difference in whether I chose to write that next book or not.
Despite seeing myself at times in those “don’t you hate it when” posts, I’ve continued to write. Sometimes a bloody miracle. If you want to check out my work…warts and all…you know the drill. Just click the links below.
Also available in audible: https://www.amazon.com/Audible-Disconnected/dp/B09Y5JSQT9/
Also available in Audible!
Proud to be an Affinity Rainbow Publications author!