30th April 2020   •   opinion
Whatsapp forwards that fuel hatred and make people angry also damage our health

by Dr Sunil Lad

How many messages from your friends and relatives have you forwarded without thinking about who you are sending it to?

I feel disturbed by the amount of WhatsApp messages I increasingly see in our communities, that aim to shock and or trigger fear and anger among people.

Our brains run on the principle of its “better to be safe than sorry” and get attracted to negative information in order to keep away from being hurt. But these messages trigger 'tribal' mentalities, where groups of people are seen as a threat and danger, rather than recognising our common humanity.

Working with people in prisons for some time has exposed me to the dark side of humanity, where people have done awful things to each other, including rage, vengeance and hatred. In this state, people are really insensitive to the suffering of others.

But underneath these emotions is fear, loneliness and feeling hurt. Fear will trigger our nervous systems making us want to freeze, run away or turn to anger.

People sending these messages are causing hatred and division rather than promoting co-operation and caring.

Moreover, these messages activate stress in our bodies and minds, as well as unconscious fears and anger. They have a negative effect on our health, immune systems and sleep patterns.

So the next time you get a message that is spreading hate and fear, rather than pass it on to negatively affect you and others, make a conscious decision to delete it.

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Dr Sunil Lad is a Consultant Counselling Psychologist employed by the NHS, working in number of prisons in England. On Twitter: @sunnyladpsych
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