Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. Most of us have heard that childhood boast, but these days when it comes to social media, it’s just not true. The words and images posted about you online not only stick around, they can set a tone that reflects the likelihood of domestic violence and may enourage it.
Areas with a greater number of tweets disparaging women had a greater number of incidences of domestic and family violence, a recent study published in Psychological Science found.
The study looked at information on arrests for domestic and family violence collected by local U.S. law enforcement agencies and the FBI during a two-year period between 2013 and 2014 and tweets sent during the same period. Researchers at the University of South Wales (UNSW) also compiled data on characteristics that are known to influence domestic and family violence including alcohol availability, income, gender inequality and population size.
“We found that misogynistic social media may not be harmless. It contributes to norms of violence toward women and a hostile worldview that may slip into real-world violence.”
Tracking these sexist tweets in over 825 geographic areas in 47 states, the researchers examined the relationship between the misogynistic tweets and data on domestic and family violence arrests. The connection was undeniable: The tweets demeaning women were linked to dangerous attitudes in many cases.
“I imagine a lot of people are fairly flippant about what is posted on social media,” lead researcher, Tom Denson, from UNSW’S School of Psychology, said in a statement. “We found that misogynistic social media may not be harmless. It contributes to norms of violence toward women and a hostile worldview that may slip into real-world violence…[S]uch posts seem to create an atmosphere where violence toward women may be more likely.”
Incidents of domestic violence are frequent in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in four women will experience physical violence by their intimate partner at some point during their lifetime. At least five million acts of domestic violence occur annually to women aged 18 years and older.
If you’re experiencing domestic abuse, or know someone who is and want help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or visit their website at https://www.thehotline.org/ for a live chat or to get more information and support.