Social Media and “Human Nature”
This was written as material for a television program interview I have been invited to cover this topic for; it has relevance for most, if not all of us:
Any “self”, “identity”, or, if you prefer, “beingness” you take on, or find projected onto you, by definition, has its own particular set of attitudes, conditions and circumstances. And, as a personality, albeit not genuine, is nevertheless driven to protect and maintain its existence, which is done by asserting those characteristics that define it as a distinct and thus a recognizable (or safe) persona.
“Tough guy Joe” has to have the circumstances that provide the opportunity to show what a “tough guy” he is;
“Righteously Indignant Mary” must have something to present “righteous indignation” about; “
“Andy the Victim” has to present the scenario of how he is being victimized;
“Aloof Intellectual Ted” will repeatedly present scenarios of how dimwitted others are, and how he is “smarter”, and “above it all”, and on and on.
The guiding behavior of each of our personae (and we all have accumulated collections of these, to be triggered or enacted accordingly toward and with the persona we are encountering) is simple:
Any persona must display the conditions and circumstances that justify its attitude and its very existence. And thereby, any persona a person takes on, or has projected onto him, will attract, create, provoke, and/or fabricate the conditions and circumstances that define the attitude of that persona.
“Tough Guy Joe” will pick a fight, or accuse another of “starting it”; “Righteously Indignant Mary” will go out of her way to find something to be outraged about, and/or paint a false picture of someone or something to play that role; “Andy the Victim” will somehow find someone who will take advantage of him, and/or paint a false picture of that happening, and “Aloof Intellectual Ted” will display that attitude at every opportunity, real or otherwise.
And so, people, engaged in their own particular personae, will exhibit the same circumstances over and over again.
No persona exists alone, in a vacuum; every persona is half of an equation completed through interacting with another, counter-persona. And so, engaged in a persona, we will seek out someone who can be provoked to take on the role of the counter-persona, one way or another, to be cast in that role. And social media provides a target-rich environment full of prospects to fill that craving for a counter-persona to interact with. We really don’t know much about the people we meet through mutual connections or interests on social media, and so, engaged in whatever persona you are wearing, you can fill in the lack of knowledge about another person with the characteristics of the persona yours would engage with, it is easy to project them as suits there needs and purposes of the persona you are engaged in. And the multitude of personalities and attitudes expressing offers endless opportunities to trigger some persona within you who engages with the persona or attitude being expressed. And so we see how quick people in social media can be to engage in some form of combat with each other.
Within Therapeutic Spiritual Counseling, the techniques exist to help people resolve and deconstruct their personae, and thus not play this game on social media, or, for that matter, elsewhere in life. But simply understanding this can help you to be mindful of “not taking the bait”, that reacting to or in social media, and how we do, is a choice.
Dex Gelfand is an internationally recognized leader in the field of spiritually oriented counseling, with clients spanning the globe. His time is divided between personally conducting sessions with individuals and mentoring and training other practitioners in his approach and techniques. His approach, Therapeutic Spiritual Counseling, is based on the principle that we are all endowed with our own spiritual compass, which presents the mental/spiritual material of what we need to address, and draws on our attention to that material, the specific negative spiritual architectures we need to resolve and the practitioner’s function is to help the participant to achieve whatever he or she is intending to accomplish through the sessions.