Can your online life really have a lasting effect on your real life?
In an age where most of us can still remember a time before Facebook – I know, I know – the notion that online games or social media could fundamentally change our personalities seems absurd, because it’s not ‘real’. Or is it?
I still remember vividly crying to my mum in my early teens because a crush was refusing to chat to me on MSN. To me, the sky was falling. To Mum? It wasn’t worth crying over.
“Just call him on the phone like we used to!” she said, “and don’t bother with that online rubbish.” Needless to say, the landline remained firmly in its cradle that night.
Fast forward to 2017, where our online selves are almost more present than our actual selves, that ‘online rubbish’ is taking over our lives. A recent study from scientists in Vienna has conclusively proven that when shit hits the fan online, we react in real time offline.
The Medical University of Vienna set out to understand if, and how, rejection online can affect us in real life. Not surprisingly, they concluded online bullying can change how we behave in the real world.
“The study has now shown that exclusion from a virtual group has a significant negative impact upon willingness to help and social distance in the real world,” notes the report.
Basically, feeling offended or defeated online will carry over into your personal life, creating the same emotional response as if it had happened in the ‘real world’.
“Somebody who has experienced cyber mobbing or virtual exclusion can suddenly become withdrawn and passive in real life and lose all their self-confidence,” writes the report, “and this can even lead to depression or post-traumatic stress.”
And anyone with a social media page will know that to be true.