The Butthurt-Reaction Cycle

Reposted from Spinster, where I am a moderator, hence the “mod hat.”

Social Media, when it is working properly (which is increasingly seldom), will expose you to ideas and opinions you don’t like.

When you encounter them, you have choices. One is to mute or block. Another is to argue in good faith. Another is to take grave personal offense. I call the last, “butthurt.”

Some of the things that hurt our butts are intended to; that’s what the mute, block, and report buttons are for. But when an undisciplined person’s butt gets hurt online, they aim to hurt more butts. A butthurt individual is vulnerable and insecure; their instinct is to seek validation, to spread their butthurt so they can react to it without actually feeling it. This is how internet mobs are formed.

I call this the Butthurt-Reaction Cycle. It is why Social Media sucks.

The only way to break the Butthurt-Reaction Cycle is to NOT REACT. You must sit with the butthurt.

When someone is deliberately mischaracterizing what you say, do not react. When someone is attacking you, do not react.

If they are arguing in good faith, you can have an interesting discussion. But you know when it’s not good faith. And you can tell when they smell blood and start to form a mob. DO NOT REACT.

Any reaction from you is like a drug to them, inflaming their frenzy.

If you are feeling emotions like urgency, despair, or anger, step away from the computer for a few hours, days, or weeks.

Many of us need to express strong feelings somewhere; but don’t do it in public. Never try to reason with your offenders when you’re offended. Have a private chat with someone else, or go to an unrelated space. Writing just for yourself is good too.

In terms of communicating, consider what statement you made that people are supposedly angry about. Is it true, or at least honest? Is it clear? That’s usually the case. Online mobs are especially provoked by truth and clarity (example: “if a person has a penis he’s a man”).

If your instigating statement was neither true nor clear, you can clear it up later, after you’ve had a break and are no longer flooded with stress hormones. But the mob will be pressuring you to apologize for truth and clarity. Don’t do that. Let them rage. Their rage is on them.

TL;DR: Does your butt hurt? Go do something else until you feel better so you don’t make the Internet even more of a godforsaken cesspool than it already is.


Author: Nina Paley

Animator. Director. Artist. Scapegoat.

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