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In this world of social distancing due to this virulent pandemic with its impact on the livelihoods and wellbeing of millions of people, it’s understandable that people are incredibly stressed and anxious. Our personal circumstances will differ according to where we live and our ability to deal with the daily and ongoing stress. But we all have problems to deal with, whether it’s our own health and safety, or those of family members, or our financial situation, work stress, relationship problems, among many other issues. So many areas of life are being impacted by this horrid pandemic.
I am reminded of the propensity for people to project their pain and stress and anger onto others, particularly via social media, which is one of the few outlets where we can still engage with other people.
On more than one occasion over the past six months I have been bullied on social media when people have become upset and overreacted to a comment, or post I have made. This is called projection. It happens when a person is not coping with a particular stressful situation in their own lives, and they overreact to an external comment that somehow triggers a response.
I’ll give you an example. Some time ago I responded to a comment from someone I had met once, about a decade before. They were asking for the address, or phone number of a mutual acquaintance. I did not know the information, so I replied that I couldn’t help. Later that day there was a tirade of verbal abuse about my ‘insensitivity’ which left me feeling confused and upset. I replied that I didn’t know what the problem was. Apparently, the person concerned had mentioned in a completely different post that their father had just passed away, but I had not seen that post. I pointed this out, and offered my sympathy, but was then further bullied by a bunch of other people who all agreed that I was unfeeling. This then deteriorated into more abuse and a character assassination via social media. As you can imagine, I was very upset and also dismayed by the tirade. I could do nothing, but restate that I had not seen the post about the family loss.
At this time of stress and angst that everyone is enduring, I think we need to be especially mindful not to project our frustration and pain onto others. Apart from the personal impact, the danger is that finger pointing and bullying can quickly escalate and spread as more people get involved. History is full of examples of major conflicts that started this way.