Mobile phone showing the words social media and displaying instagram, facebook and twitter icons.

A pile-on is defined as an argument or attack by a large group of people against one person or a much smaller group.

Someone once said that the key to enjoying Twitter is to never be the person of the day.

By that, we can assume what they meant was to never be the person that everyone is piling on.

It’s happened many times but social media pile-ons are not fun and can cause real harm to people.


The power of the pile-on

It can happen to a celebrity, a politician or just a normal person. Generally, they occur when a person has said or done something that is seen as problematic. 

For example, in September 2019, singer Lizzo tweeted that a delivery person had stolen her food order.

She posted a photo of the alleged thief to her 1.2 million followers, instigating a pile-on on the delivery person. The tweet was later deleted.

The issue here is influence. Lizzo has a large following meaning at any time she can talk to 1.2 million people.

This is often a good thing but it can be weaponised and suddenly a person could have 1.2 million people tweeting them everything from mean comments to death threats.


The mental health effects

This takes a toll on people’s mental health, especially if the pile-on lasts for a few days. It can feel incredibly overwhelming as you may feel that the entire world hates you. 

The justification that many people use for engaging in these pile-ons is to “hold the person to account”.

It’s a very normal reason as we tend to want people to learn from their mistakes but also to be held accountable for their actions. 

However, this can quickly turn into public shaming. If 1.2 million people are yelling at you about your mistake or action, you’re probably not going to learn much.

More likely, you will either abandon social media platforms altogether or become defensive, resentful and retreat further into your position.


Be accountable for your actions

The important thing to remember is that we’re all trying to do our best. Social media sometimes means our mistakes are amplified to a much larger degree than anything ever before.

Our tweets and posts from when we were teenagers or younger can come back to haunt us, even if we don’t believe the same things as we did then.

People grow and change, so before engaging in a pile-on, ask yourself one simple question: 

“How would I feel if this was me?”