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You may not have heard the word “flouncing” before, but I’m fairly certain you’ve seen it somewhere online without realizing what the behavior is called.
According to Urban Dictionary, flouncing is leaving an internet group or thread with exaggerated drama and acting in ways to draw attention to the drama.
In other words, it is the internet equivalent of storming out of the room and making a dramatic exit, while slamming the door behind you on the way out. According to Dictionary.com, this new modern internet slang word “may or may not involve burning a few ridges or stirring the pot on the way out.”
I’m sure some of you have seen this kind of behavior on Facebook or in comment threads around the internet, and I’m also certain these people have caused you to roll your eyes and reply to them with something along with the lines of, “This isn’t an airport; there’s no need to announce your departure,” or other people may have added something like, “Byeeeee Felicia!”
I was curious about why people do this, so I raised the question on social media and got a reply from a friend who said, “So much of what is on social media is valued based on opinions and group dynamics.” In real-life conflicts, we are supposed to feel sorry for the person who’s dramatically storming out of the situation because they’ve been wounded and hurt. Some people might probably run after the aggrieved person and say, “No, don’t leave! Stay.” Sometimes, this happens online as well; however, when people throw a big enough tantrum and cause a scene—especially if they aren’t well-known to other group members—people’s reactions online are more likely to be: bye. Don‘t let the door hit you on the way out.
In the world of the internet, it isn’t always possible to run after the party that is hurt, which makes the dramatic exit an ineffectual behavior. And what if we go after them anyway, say, by sending them a message to try to reason with them, only so they’d end up blocking us? Wouldn’t that mean that they had their way of getting the last word so they can sit, smugly, on their high horse, and feel triumphant that they stood up to whatever perceived threat they’ve felt?
I did some research, and it turns out there is so much psychological and neuroscience evidence to back up this behavior.
According to this site, dramatic people want others to notice how upset, or sad, angry, anxious, and frustrated they are in order to come to their rescue.
Apparently, there are two types of people in this world: those who avoid confrontation (raises hand), and those who thrive on stirring the pot.
There’s a scientific measurement scale called the “Need For Drama.” Researchers have found that those who scored higher on this scale shared three main characteristics: manipulation, outspokenness (aka gossip), and reactivity due to their internal perception as being a victim. Scientists also found that dramatic people tend to be more impulsive and, therefore, are more likely to jump into drama and tantrum mode.
But how does this affect us? According to neuroscience, drama is another way of saying that someone has a lack of social and emotional skills, where there’s a disconnect between the two.
In reality, people are supposed to learn how to regulate their emotions and control their impulses from the time they become teenagers all the way into their adulthood. But due to today’s reliance on an online world, and based on what we’re seeing through these confrontations and dramatic outbursts on social media, this might not be happening anymore.
As socially-wired human beings, we love storytelling; it helps bond us together. But in today’s fast-paced world, we have limited time and shorter attention spans, and, therefore, we are becoming less patient. So, the way we communicate today through storytelling has changed. This included some positive changes, such as the outburst of TED Talks videos, but on the flip side, our social interactions on digital platforms are filled with misinformation and gossip. As a social species, we all require attention. But social media has caused an excess in attention-seeking behaviors by its 24/7, all-pervasive availability, and psychologists believe that this behavior is driven out of emotional desperation.
When people’s beliefs, values, or ideals are threatened, instead of just removing themselves from the situation or quietly leaving, they instead become impulsive in their reactions and their expectation of the outcome. When we don’t get the attention we seek, we feel anxious, and to ease that anxiety, we instinctively seek more drama to get the attention we are craving.
But there is a downside to this drama: stress, which we all know, is harmful to our health. According to Psychology Today, because conflict causes stress, which is our defense mechanism against perceived harm, it tells us one of two things: we’ve either been hurt or we’re about to. If we think we’re hurt, our brain switches into action and causes us to be more impulsive or reactive.
We may not have control over our environment, but as I’ve learned through my mindfulness study and work over the years, we do have control over how we react to it. So the next time you feel like the internet is against you, instead of angrily announcing I’m leaving to a bunch of people who don’t really know you and probably don’t really care, save your energy.
Learn the art of protecting your well-being and quietly shut the door behind you on your way out.