Gaslighting in Social Media

Gaslighting is a serious form of manipulation that is all too common in many relationships. It is not my intention to minimize the seriousness of such a situation while bringing light to the fact that is also being used in social media, politics, and the workplace. While I have already written about this on my FB page, I felt gaslighting in social media specifically, needed some explanation.

Understand Gaslighting

If you’re not familiar with the term, be sure to read this article by Stephanie A. Sarkis, Ph.D., at Psychology Today – 11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting.

Here’s an excerpt:

Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think.



One of the more disturbing trends currently is gaslighting in social media. The following meme is a great example.


This meme is designed to make the reader feel as if they’re behaving like a child, instantly overwhelming them with guilt if they have unfriended people on Facebook, or stopped talking to certain people because of differing political views.

The problem with attempting to humiliate people for taking care of themselves by distancing themselves from angry over-zealous political discussions is that it can shame them into remaining friends with people who are causing them a great deal of stress, just because a meme told them they were being childish.

It can also cause calm and thoughtful people who enjoy a good political debate to stop using their voice to speak out when they see things that are unjust.

In other words, this meme attempts to create apathy.

That is not a good thing.

Learn how to identify this type of manipulation.

Actually, all advertising is a type of manipulation. Obviously, you can also learn how to use similar tactics – in moderation of course – if you dare.

For instance, saying that all smart business people use your service, or that the smartest consumers choose your product – is all geared toward making the consumer feel that they “need” you or your product in order to be considered “smart.” No one wants to feel dumb.

“Keeping up with the Joneses” is similar. Many people feel they have to own what people they admire or idolize own in order to not feel inferior. Mind you, no one is gaslighting them. It’s simply an example of how easily people can be influenced to do or purchase something they weren’t even thinking about yesterday.