If there is one thing I have often wondered, it has been why mean behavior seems to be catching or contagious. We see it amongst us and people always seem to think its funny and a way of entertainment. We watch it on television, want more of it and allow it to filter into our daily lives. Two people are in an argument and instead of trying to stop things before they escalate, we sit by and watch. Reality television is a hot bed for relational aggression. Instead of squashing the bad behavior on there, it gets rewarded in some way. Plus, those who behave badly on these shows seem to get more attention from the viewer. I get the impression that being mean is in the “in thing” now.
A recent study was conducted at Bingham Young University where 53 women are asked to watch three video clips containing physical aggression (Kill Bill), relational aggression (Mean Girls) and no aggression (a séance scene from What Lies Beneath). Afterwards, the women took a couple of tests that are used to test aggression. Findings suggested that parents need to pay more attention to relational aggression in their television viewing. We get so caught up with violence in the media and how bad it is. Yet, more attention needs to be paid to relational aggression as well. It is just as harmful if you ask me.
I have to ask, what makes reality television so popular? Why do we want to watch shows like Survivor where people form alliances and stab each other in the back? Gossip Girl is another one full of relational aggression with the glorification of the Queen Bee. This behavior is highly destructive yet we want more and more of it. If that is not bad enough, we allow it to filter into our own lives and relationships. Subconsciously, we take this information and pertain it to our own lives because we know its rewarding and acceptable.
Folks, we need to stop excusing this and start to see it for what it is. We need to stop glorifying this bad behavior and making role models of those who behave this way. Stop the gratification and rewarding of it. Start to see it for the abuse that it really is. Why must this mean behavior be so contagious?
Elizabeth Bennett is the author of Peer Abuse Know More! Bullying From A Psychological Perspective and resides in Los Angeles, California. To learn more, visit http://www.peerabuse.info .