Social Media And A Generation Of Passive Aggressive Users

I’m very fortunate; I have a job that allows me to work with some amazing brands. As such, I get to see a side of social media that many people probably don’t spend a lot of time looking at; comments from other users. A lot of comments for a lot of users. One of the great things M80 does so well is page moderation, and since we handle a lot of accounts that have hundreds of thousands…even millions…of fans on their Facebook pages, we are pretty good at quickly assessing spam, trolling, flaming and all sorts of online behavior.

As much as I dislike the general nastiness that can occur on a brand wall or in comment threads, I have to admit that it really gets to me more than just about anything when it’s done by younger kids. Although it’s aggravating to have to delete or defend against a minor (they even have an acronym…ATYO which stands for “annoying twelve year old”), as a father myself I’m more incensed by the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any parental monitoring. I see many of these kids say the same things, over and over on different community pages. I wish I could tell you that’s it’s just a few, but it’s not. It feels epidemic. It feels like there are mobs of children doing whatever they want, whenever they want, saying anything they want, online…and nobody is paying attention to them. They aren’t just saying annoying things, they viciously attack other people with racial and sexual slurs. F-bombs are prevalent. They say things like, “join my game and I’ll rape you” to mean “I’ll beat you in an online game”. I’m not holier-than-thou, but if I knew that one of my kids wrote that online, we would have a long talk, and probably not an entirely pleasant one.

To add to this…I’ve actually met several of these younger, aggressive people in real life (at conventions, gaming events, etc.) and guess what? They are about the most introverted, meek kids you could ever run across. They have a hard time carrying on a normal conversation, and they are slow to look anybody in the eye. I know that they are the same people because they brag about who they are online, and what they say. It’s passive-aggressive in such a polarized way.

Perhaps I’m blowing this out of proportion, but as I look at the even-increasing popularity of online communities, and the ever-increasing rise of really terrible behavior by younger people in these communities, I get worried. Are we allowing an entire generation to say whatever they want online, and refuse to teach them social norms offline?

I don’t know what the answer is, other than parental guidance and control. I feel that it’s a¬†responsibility, and can certainly be done in a loving way. If you are a parent, do you monitor what your children do online, or do you allow them to surf at will? What about other parents that you know…what is their attitude?

Of course it goes without saying that the rude comments and aggressive attitudes in the pages I work with are hardly unique to young kids. As adults, we’ve obviously refined the art of slander and attack. However, I’m seeing this with so many kids, at this point, it really stands out.

What do you think? Is this an old problem that is being amplified by social media, or is this something new that is on the rise and only going to get worse? Either way…what do you think these people (kids and adults) will start to act like in real life if they can get away with (practically) anything they want online?


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“Kid Flipping The Bird” by, published with permission under Creative Commons
By Matt Singley

Personal: husband to Alison, father to four amazing kids. I used to live a fast but enjoyable life in Los Angeles, now I have chickens on acreage in Charlotte, North Carolina. Just a bit different. I'm an advocate for cycling as much as you can and eating as cleanly as you can afford. Professional: I'm the CEO of Singley + Mackie, a creative digital agency that serves well-known lifestyle and entertainment companies around the world. Clients include Microsoft, Samsung, Hulu, YP and others. If you want to find the more-professional me, go to