Exploring the impact of online toxicity on mental health

In today's digital age, social media platforms and the internet have emerged as new battlegrounds for toxicity. 

The Bodyguard team

The Bodyguard team

What started as a hopeful space for people to connect and build communities has increasingly turned into a place for negativity and hostility.

The toxic culture has been fuelled by the anonymity that comes with interacting online, and how fast toxic messages can spread; and the consequences for our mental health are deeply concerning.

This phenomenon poses significant risks to professional online spaces, as well as individual wellbeing.

What is online toxicity?

Online toxicity is harmful, negative behaviour which takes place on the internet. It can take different forms, from trolling and hate speech to cyberbulling, spamming, scamming and spreading false information.

All forms of online toxicity contribute to a negative online culture, where users may feel unsafe or discouraged from engaging in digital spaces.

In B2B contexts, online toxicity can disrupt conversations, harm reputations, and undermine trust between parties.

Why do comment sections become toxic?

Comment sections on social media and other platforms can quickly become toxic. According to research studies, 65% of people who experience offensive behavior online encounter it on social media platforms. This is bad news, not just for us as internet users, but for businesses who need to create a positive and safe online space to nurture brand engagement.

There are lots of reasons why online toxicity is rife today...

  • People like attention: Some people engage in toxic behavior to get a reaction or attention. Often, these trolls don't believe what they are saying, but they enjoy upsetting people and getting attention.

  • Users can be anonymous: Lots of social networks let users comment anonymously or with false names. This can make people express themselves in ways they wouldn't in real life, and lead to more aggressive or offensive interactions.

  • Echo chambers are created: Social media algorithms tend to show users content that aligns with their existing beliefs. This can create echo chambers where people only interact with opinions that support their opinions, and exclude other viewpoints.

  • Some platforms attract toxicity: Certain platforms, particularly those that prioritize anonymity, usually attract more negative comments than others. Platforms where diverse opinions can be shared often attracted heated arguments in the comment section.

  • We forget people are human: It's easy to forget that we're talking to real people when we interact online. This can create a lack of empathy and understanding about how the words you use online can make a person feel.

  • People follow the crowd: When one person leaves a negative comment, other people feel encouraged to do the same. This can quickly lead to a snowball of negativity.

How online toxicity can affect mental health

Online toxicity and negative comments can influence our psychological well-being in ways we might not even realize, even within the realm of B2B interactions.

Interacting online can become addictive and make people constantly seek validation or engage in confrontation. This can negatively affect productivity and our sense of fulfilment.

Idealized images and standards can make us have unrealistic expectations of how we should look or behave. This can impact decision-making and interactions, without us even realizing we’ve been influenced.

And mental health repercussions can extend beyond our own personal sphere into professional environments.

Whether its a brand’s social media page or a sports team’s online forum, toxicity on professional online platforms can make people hesitant to interact with the brand and other users, and put them off visiting again.

It also reflects badly on the company whose online spaces are toxic. The kind of comments that a business page attracts, and allows, can create negative associations between the brand and toxicity. So, there’s no doubt that proactive measures against online toxicity are also needed within the B2B setting.

Impact of toxicity on professionals

Certain people are more vulnerable to cyberbullying, harassment and online toxicity because of their job.

Let's delve into some specific functions and industries that are particularly vulnerable to high levels of online toxicity.

Sports clubs and athletes

The competitive nature of sports and the visibility of athletes on social media platforms make them a prime target for online toxicity. Online negativity can deeply affect athletes' mental well-being, and make existing pressures even harder to handle. Constant exposure to negative comments online can seriously harm their confidence and self-esteem, and make it tough for them to cope with the demands of their sport while staying mentally healthy.

Media outlets and journalists

The role of journalists as public figures, and the contentious nature of news coverage, can attract online harassment and hostility. Online toxicity poses a significant threat to journalists, who often face harassment and threats. This can lead to fears for their safety and has even caused journalists to resign from their jobs. The impact ranges from anxiety and depression, to a chilling effect on freedom of expression, as journalists might self-censor to avoid becoming targets of online hate.

Brands and ambassadors

The high-profile nature of brand ambassadors and the potential for controversial brand campaigns and partnerships can make them vulnerable to toxic comments online.

Toxicity can have a profound impact on brand ambassadors, who rely heavily on their online presence and reputation. Negative comments and cyberbullying can lead to lost opportunities and mental health issues, and make it hard to maintain a positive and visible online presence. Plus, when a brand ambassador is subject to lots of toxicity, it can reflect badly on the brand that used them.

The vital role of moderation in creating a safer online space

Moderation is the guardian of online communities and it ensures that interactions stay respectful and conducive to a positive environment.

Traditionally, human moderators have monitored online platforms and removed toxic content. While human moderation is very accurate, it also has a number of limitations.

Unlike automated content, it isn’t scalable and can’t keep up with the fast pace and evolution of user generated content (UGC). As online platforms deal with an overwhelming volume of UGC, manual moderation becomes impractical due to time constraints and sheer quantity.

There is also room for misinterpretation of comments, which might mean toxic content isn't removed when it should have been.

Automated moderation solutions like Bodyguard offer a superior alternative, by leveraging algorithms to monitor, analyze and remove toxic content in real-time.

By removing toxic content instantly, Bodyguard makes users feel more comfortable to express themselves authentically. This is beneficial not only for individuals, but for brands and businesses who want to cultivate a positive online presence with high engagement.

Bodyguard also has the ability to ban toxic authors from platforms to further reinforce the safety of online communities. By enforcing community guidelines, Bodyguard reduces the likelihood of toxic behavior, including spam and scams. And the option to set custom classifications enables organizations to address specific subjects unique to their community, fostering a healthier online environment.

Get a content moderation solution now

If you want to protect your online presence and create a safer, more positive space for your online community, Bodyguard has your back.

Our moderation works in 38 languages and with every major social media network, with packages available for every budget.

Contact us today to find out more.