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. 

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 groups 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.

For the person experiencing the pile-on, this can result in: 

  • Anxiety and Stress 
  • Depression 
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Sleep Disturbances 
  • Social Isolation or Avoiding social activities 
  • Impact on Offline Relationships 

Those witnessing the pile-on can experience similar effects. 

The ‘Spiral of silence’ theory states that people have a fear of isolation. This fear can lead to individuals remaining silent, instead speaking up against injustices they see. They avoid voicing their opinions because they are worried their social group or community will isolate or exclude them as a result. 

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?” and instead, try to have a respectful, open dialogue with others online.