This week, I heard someone talking gleefully about “hate bonding”. It’s apparently accelerating social media engagement around hot, trending topics.

Hate bonding happens when people very quickly form tight bonds over shared dislikes. Of course, social media quickly fans the flames and the unfortunate outcome? An increase in online bullying and hate crimes.

And here’s a sad and scary fact: Research shows people tend to build stronger bonds through mutual dislike vs. shared positive feelings. In a way, I get it. Expressing hatred requires a degree of vulnerability and trust. Then when someone agrees with how I’m feeling, they validate my view of the world and affirm me as a person.

But these bonds can be dangerous.

Do you believe that social media can manipulate and influence you?

No matter how strong or convicted we believe we are, we should humbly acknowledge that big data and technology literally know how to push our buttons. They win when we stay engaged, and do all they can to keep us online a little longer. Maybe that looks like feeding us notifications or cute cat videos. Or maybe they do it by connecting us to like-minded people and bloggers. Even if what we share in common is a mutual dislike.

We recently watched The Social Dilemma with our daughter – I recommend it, if only to open important dialogue with our kids. Because if we, as adults, find we’re on social media more than we’d like, kids are even more vulnerable and unaware of how they are being manipulated. And if we, as adults, find ourselves resisting hate bonding, are our kids even aware that it’s a thing?

How can we take back control?

First, proactively develop and track to ensure you’re maintaining healthy social media habits. In our family, this looks like:

  • Start the day with meditation and set your intentions, lay out priorities… BEFORE you go on social media or email.
  • Limit screen time and track. Share your stats as a family on a weekly basis, to maintain a degree of accountability.
  • No phones during meals (though we do occasionally ask Siri to answer questions related to our conversation).
  • No devices in kids’ rooms at night, and turn off all notifications during important moments.

There are some great tools available on your phone: go into Settings and tap Screen Time.

And let’s find ways to become part of the solution.

The Center for Humane Design outlines the principles of humane design. For instance, they prioritize values over engagement metrics, and promote mindfulness over attention. We can still grow, but we can grow responsibly.

And we can educate ourselves. Laini’s thinking about taking the Designing Inclusive Algorithms class offered by John Hopkins this summer. If she signs up, I’m going to be following along!

Photo credit for Post No Hate image