Pew Internet & American Life Project just released a new study called “The tone of life on social networking sites” where they examine adult meanness and cruelty. This complements their piece on “Teens, kindness, and cruelty on social network sites.”
Like teens, most adults find people on social network sites to be kind. But what fascinates me about both the adult and teen studies is that frequent users are more likely to witness negative exchanges. (Not surprisingly, young people are more likely to be frequent users which helps explain part of why young people report higher exposure to negativity. Cuz, guess what? Adults and teens aren’t that radically different.)
But what I want to know is: why?
Most folks will probably jump to the conclusion that SNSs produce the meanness and cruelty and, thus, frequent use means more exposure. I suspect that this isn’t the case. Instead, I suspect that the types of people who are drawn to and use SNSs frequently are more likely to engage in drama, meanness, and cruelty. But who are these people?
I especially want to know more about the adults who are more likely to have negative experiences. And I really want to know if there’s a connection between teens and adults when it comes to negative experiences. For example, are teens who have bad experiences online likely to have parents who have negative experiences? Or are they totally unrelated? I can imagine it going either way. More things to think about…
In the meantime, if you’re interested in the issues of bullying, drama, meanness, and cruelty, make sure to check out these two Pew reports. They’re fascinating!