Facebook study shows your racist aunt might just be bored

Facebook study shows your racist aunt might just be bored

Racist, sexist, religious一 all forms of discrimination, prejudice, or hate speech could be attributed to boredom according to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology.

According to Wijnand A.P. Van Tilburg:

“Boredom puts people on edge: It makes them seek engagements that are challenging, exciting, and that offer a sense of purpose.”

To summarize the research: in order to get through life sanely, you need to have a sense of purpose. If you’re not accomplishing anything substantial, you might feel drained or disinterested, resulting in boredom. Once boredom starts sinking in, your brain will tell you to re-establish a sense of meaningfulness.

You might go for a walk to clear your head, talk to a friend, go out to see a movie, or even一 use social media.

With the current political climate stressing out more than half of Americans, it’s clear to see that most bored people complain (to say the least) about current events online.

You may have come across threads like this,

Or this,

But to what extent does boredom play a part in all of the mess?  

Although we don’t know for sure, the same research states that adopting an extreme political ideology is a common way people inject meaning back into their lives. The reason being, is that when you’re bored, there is an innate need to affiliate with “your own tribe” and disassociate against those who you perceive as outsiders. In worst case scenarios, this could mean taking a strong side with the “in group” and discriminating against an “out group”ーregardless of the context.

If you’ve ever engaged in a heated debate online or offline, you get the picture. You feel almost energized and accomplished during and after the dispute: defending your side, vanquishing the enemy, validating your beliefs with your friends after the battle is overーalmost as if it were a game.

Of course there are many other factors that play into a person’s behavior (self-consciousness, deep-rooted beliefs, ignorance), but boredom is preventable.

Next time aunt Suzie gets a little out of hand in the Fox News comments section, consider sending her a Candy Crush invite.

Read next: How AI Is Changing the World of Advertising Forever