Яна Сергеевна Гмыза
Санкт-Петербургский политехнический университет Петра Великого (СПбПУ)
Yana Sergeevna Gmyza
Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU)
В этой работе выявляются и исследуются различные вариации использования слова «газлайтинг» в Интернете. В статье рассматриваются контекстуальные, лингвистические и эмоциональные аспекты употребления этого термина. Исследование показало, что чаще всего он используется при обсуждении проблем психического здоровья, а также в политических и социальных комментариях. Было обнаружено, что 32% проанализированных “постов” выражали переживания пользователей, связанных с манипуляциями и психическим насилием. Кроме того, значительный процент сообщений (42%) содержал лексику, связанную с психологией, такую как «терапия», «травма», «эмоции», «нарцисс». Основываясь на результатах исследования, приходим к выводу, что слово «газлайтинг» не может быть заменено никаким другим термином или словосочетанием в большинстве случаев, что подтверждает его специфические семантические особенности и демонстрирует то, как оно было переопределено и адаптировано онлайн-сообществом.
This study identifies and examines different ways the word ‘gaslighting’ is used online. The article goes into the contextual, linguistic, and emotional aspects of the usage of the term. The study revealed that most often the term ‘gaslighting’ is used in the discussion of mental health issues and political and social commentary. It was also discovered that 32% of the analysed posts expressed users’ experiences with being manipulated and mentally abused. Additionally, a significant percentage of the posts (42%) contained psychology-related vocabulary items such as ‘therapy’, ‘trauma’, ‘emotions’, ‘narcissist’. Based on the findings of the study, the word ‘gaslighting’ cannot be replaced by any other term or phrase in the majority of contexts, which solidifies its specific semantic features and showcases how it has been redefined and adapted by the online community.
Плетнев А.В. Маркетинг будущего как технология манипулирования символическим потреблением // Технология и язык. 2021. № 2(3). С. 8-15.
Кленк М. (Онлайн) манипуляция: иногда скрытая, всегда беспечная // Обзор социальной экономики. 2022. Том 80, № 1. С. 85-105.
Коттер К. «Теневой контроль — это не вещь»: черный ящик газлайтинга и возможность независимо знать и достоверно критиковать алгоритмы // Информация, коммуникация и общество. 2021. С. 1-18.
Мухамедьярова К. М. Оскорбительные отношения между мужчинами и женщинами // Наука и просвещение, Пенза. 2021. Т. 2. С. 141-144
Вяткина Н.В., Боброва Е.А., Гремякина Д.А. Газлайтинг как вид психологического насилия в отношениях между родителями и детьми // Пермский национальный исследовательский политехнический университет, Пермь. 2020. Том 1. С. 53-61.
«Слово года 2018: шорт-лист». Издательство Оксфордского университета. Дата публикации: 13 октября 2022 года. Доступно по адресу: https://languages.oup.com/word-of-the-year/2018-shortlist/
«Определение газлайтинга» (запись 2 из 2). Городской словарь. Дата публикации: 15 октября 2022 года. Доступно по адресу: https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Gaslighting
Ритдейк, Н. Политика постправды и коллективный газлайтинг // Эпистема. 2021. С. 1-17.
- Pletnev, A.V. Future marketing as technology for manipulating symbolic consumption//Technology and Language. 2021. № 2(3). P. 8-15.
- Klenk, M. (Online) manipulation: sometimes hidden, always careless//Review of Social Economy. 2022. Vol. 80, № 1. P. 85-105.
- Cotter, K. ‘Shadowbanning is not a thing’: black box gaslighting and the power to independently know and credibly critique algorithms//Information, Communication & Society. 2021. P. 1-18.
- Mukhamedyarova, K. M. Abusive relationship between men and women// Nauka I Prosveshcheniye, Penza. 2021. Vol. 2. P. 141-144
- Viatkina, N.V., Bobrova, E.A., Gremyakina D.A. Gaslighting as a type of psychological abuse in parent-child relationships//Perm National Research Polytechnic University, Perm. 2020. Vol. 1. P. 53-61.
- ‘Word of the Year 2018: Shortlist’. Oxford University Press. Accessed October 13th 2022. Available at: https://languages.oup.com/word-of-the-year/2018-shortlist/
- ‘Definition of gaslighting’ (entry 2 of 2). Urban Dictionary. Accessed October 15th 2022. Available at: https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Gaslighting
- Rietdijk, N. Post-truth Politics and Collective Gaslighting//Episteme. 2021. P. 1-17.
газлайтинг, психология, манипуляция, социальные медиа
gaslighting, psychology, manipulation, social media
Modern communication is a complex phenomenon in terms of its structure, the technical means, and the methods and ways it affects the human mind. Undoubtedly, electronic devices and systems have an immense impact on society [1, p.11]. Thus, questions concerning manipulation and deception occupy a central place in the debate about the ethics of digital technologies [2, p.86]. Social networks may leverage perceptions of their epistemic authority on their algorithms to undermine users’ confidence in what they know about algorithms and destabilize credible criticism [3, p.1]. The subject of emotional abuse and its effects on mental health has become a pressing issue in the last few years. It is widely discussed by scientists and specialists, as well as the general public. To draw more attention to the topic of psychological abuse, new terms are emerging [4, p.141]. In this vein, the word ‘gaslighting’ has just recently entered the public consciousness and found its place in casual conversations. It derives from the title of the 1944 film Gaslight, in which a husband uses trickery to convince his wife that she is mentally unwell so he can steal jewels from her [5, p.54]. The title refers to the gaslight illumination of the house which seems to waver whenever the husband leaves his wife alone at home. Gaslighting was largely an obscure term until the mid-2010s when it broadly seeped into the English lexicon. It has become so ubiquitous in online discourse and press that the Oxford Dictionary named it one of the most popular words of 2018 . As defined by Urban Dictionary, gaslighting is an increasing frequency of systematically withholding factual information from, and/or providing false information to, the victim — having the gradual effect of making them anxious, confused, and less able to trust their memory and perception . The word is often used online in an array of different contexts, ranging from the latest celebrity gossip to political discussions.
This article is aimed at establishing attributes of the online usage of the term ‘gaslighting’. For this study, 100 posts from Twitter, Reddit, and Pinterest containing the word ‘gaslight’ were randomly picked. They were analysed using a set of criteria, which included: the context, the topic of the post, the style of language used in the post, the part of speech of the word (gaslight/gaslighting/gaslighter), what emotions the post expressed, what terms could be used instead of ‘gaslight’, and the presence of other keywords (i.e. words relevant to the discussion of gaslighting).
The first criterion was the context in which the word was used. To determine the overall contextual traits of the posts, they were all grouped into four categories. The first category was social commentary (41% of the posts). The authors of these posts intended to share their observations on social, cultural, political, or economic issues in society or to criticise certain phenomena (e.g. ‘In all circumstances, it’s easier to gaslight and silence women than confront uncomfortable emotions and realities’). The tendency to use the term ‘gaslighting’ in this context can be attributed to the nature of online discourse concerning social issues, its integral part being the psychological aspect. The term can be often spotted in discussions of manipulation and oppression in politics and complicated social dynamics [8, p.14]. The second category was related to sharing private experiences (32% of the posts). Its defining feature was the element of sincerity and vulnerability, as the users revealed some deeply personal information about their lives, such as family and romantic relationships, work struggles and mental health issues. These posts are loosely defined by the Internet as ‘oversharing’(e.g. ‘Just realized my boyfriend is a gaslighter’). This usage of the term demonstrates how many online spaces have become emotional outlets for users, where they can express their frustrations and receive support. The third category was an ironic post (14%). These posts were characterised by a humorous or sardonic tone. The author of such a post expressed their meaning by using language that normally signified the opposite (e.g. ‘don’t forget to gaslight that’s an important step’). The fourth category was psychological advice (13%). This type of post involved the author reflecting on certain mental health problems and offering a way to combat them (e.g. ‘STOP gaslighting yourself with the narrative that you’re «lazy» when the truth is you’re exhausted from the trauma and grief you’ve endured’). It can be inferred that the relatively similar percentage of ironic posts and posts containing psychological advice signifies the divide in the conversation regarding gaslighting, where some users perceive it as a severe mental problem and others merely as a new fashionable term that can be mocked and ridiculed.
To further explore the semantic features of the term, the topics tackled in the selected posts were analysed. All of the posts were divided into five groups. The first group was linked to mental health (35% of the posts). The users shared their experiences with anxiety, low self-esteem, procrastination and depression (‘gaslighting myself into thinking i don’t have social anxiety’). The second group was related to relationships (34%). These posts described emotional abuse in romantic relationships and friendships, as well as family dysfunction (‘I think my husband’s gaslighting is creating Stockholm syndrome in our kids’). The word was often used to illustrate the partner’s negligence of the user’s feelings and emotions, refusal to admit their disrespectful, hostile, or abusive behaviour, and determination to make the other party seem unreasonable and mentally ill. The third group was focused on the topic of politics (13%). Posts in this category were related to the lawmaking process, the economic policies in different countries and their negative impact on the prosperity of said countries, government propaganda and hateful political rhetoric (‘Republicans want to gaslight you into thinking they’re looking out for you’). The fourth category of posts was concerned with the word ‘gaslighting’ itself (12%). In these posts, users expressed their confusion/annoyance/frustration with the conversation surrounding the term itself. Many questioned its relevance and commented on the way it is often misunderstood and misused (‘Anyone else feel like words such as «gaslight», «trigger», and «abuse» have become popular to the point of overuse and their meaning lost?’). The fifth group discussed work-related topics (6%). The posts in this group contained criticisms of the users’ schedules, employers, coworkers and their work ethics, and job interview experiences (‘just heard my boss gaslight a client for 2 hrs straight’).
One of the study’s objectives was to examine the linguistic attributes of the online usage of the term ‘gaslighting’. Most frequently, the word could be found in posts of colloquial style (76%). They were characterised by contractions, acronyms, the abundance of first-person pronouns and slang expressions. For instance, there were such words as ‘babe’, ‘anyways’, ‘flex’, and contractions ‘hrs’, ‘u’, ‘ur’, ‘im’(‘do ppl not realize the word «lie» exists… like we don’t gotta call everything gaslighting’). These posts were generally sarcastic, cynical or sceptical, with the users often dismissing the phenomenon of gaslighting as just a trending topic. At the same, other posts (34%) contained long and complex sentences, scholarly vocabulary and displayed a consistently solemn tone (e.g. ‘Don’t let people weaponize your emotional intelligence, & try to gaslight you into believing your expression of it is more harmful than the deed that led to your expression’). This type of post exhibited a remarkably more serious approach to the topic of gaslighting and a significantly higher level of mental health awareness.
Another linguistic criterion that was applied to further analyze the posts was the part of speech of the target word (verb: to gaslight; noun: gaslighting/gaslighter; adjective: gaslighting). The majority of the posts (76%) contained the term as a verb (‘Why is everyone trying to gaslight me’). The remaining 19% and 5% of the posts had the word as a noun (‘Please don’t confuse «constructive criticism» with Gaslighting’) and as an adjective (‘you’re a gaslighting narcissist but your the victim??’) respectively.
A key part of online discourse is the users’ emotional response, as it helps to understand how topical and divisive the issue is. Therefore, it was crucial to establish what feelings and emotions were expressed in the posts. A significant portion of the posts (38%) conveyed a sense of frustration, with the users being resentful of the way they were treated by their spouses, family members, and friends, and disillusioned with the current state of affairs (‘I hate when people try to gaslight me. Like I know what you’re doing’). It is noteworthy that 31% of the posts communicated virtually no emotions, the users simply making matter-of-fact statements on the subject of gaslighting (‘Words not matching actions is called manipulation and not accepting accountability is called gaslighting’). Some users (11%) expressed annoyance at being gaslit and manipulated or witnessing the way the term is often misinterpreted and misunderstood (‘Someone needs to organize a masterclass on the meaning of gaslighting and manipulation because a lot of people are dense’). Meanwhile, 7% of the posts were marked by a sense of despair over mental health problems and life circumstances (‘At this point, I’m just gonna gaslight and manipulate myself’). Interestingly, an identical percentage of posts (5%) indicated two strikingly contrasting emotions: confusion (‘please someone that knows English well should clearly explain what gaslighting means to me’) and determination (‘Advocate for yourself and don’t let doctors, or anyone gaslight you into thinking this is all in your head’). Unsurprisingly, given the meaning of the term, only 3% of the posts expressed positive emotions such as relief and happiness (‘Gaslighting-mom changed and apologized!’).
An integral aspect of the analysis was to determine what other words if any, could be used instead of ‘gaslighting’ in the context of the selected posts. In the majority of cases (60%), the term could not be replaced by any other word or phrase due to its specific semantic properties (‘Gaslighting is like fighting a war where the enemy’s strategy is to convince you that the war isn’t actually happening’). The users defined and explained this term, highlighted how it can manifest itself in relationships, debated about its meaning and plausible interpretation. The intention to convey these particular messages necessitated the use of the word. It should also be noted that in 16% of the posts the term could be substituted for the verb ‘to convince’ and its forms such as convincing and convinced (‘gaslighting myself into thinking that getting the passing score is good enough so i can move on’). Other possible alternatives to the word included ‘to lie’- in 15% of the posts (‘You realize the pandemic is still here and you are gaslighting the public right?’) and ‘to manipulate/manipulation’ — in 9% of the posts (‘Subtle gaslighting is growing up in the US and being taught to associate cops, guns, and US military with peace keeping’).
The analysis involved examining what other words relevant to the discussion of gaslighting were present in the selected posts. Words from the psychology-related thematic category such as ‘trauma’, ‘anxiety’, ‘emotions’, etc. were observed in 42% of the posts (‘Me and my friends are having a gaslighting competition. Whoever gets to gaslight the hardest goes to therapy’). In 27% of the posts, reflexive pronouns were used to indicate the internalized nature of gaslighting (‘Gaslighting myself into thinking im ok’). Some posts (21%) also stated the abusers (‘men get caught lying then gaslight you like it’s your fault’). Words linked to political, social, and economic concepts such as ‘war’, ‘pandemic’, ‘oil prices’ were spotted in 10 % of the analysed posts (‘let’s not gaslight and minimize the human trafficking that occurred’).
In conclusion, ‘gaslighting’ is a multifaceted term that is currently omnipresent in many online spaces. The study has shown that the word is most frequently used to comment on political, social and economic phenomena, as well as to discuss psychological problems. Many users shared their experiences with manipulation and emotional abuse, with 38% of the posts expressing frustration and resentment. One of the most remarkable findings of the study was that in most cases (60%), the word ‘gaslighting’ was irreplaceable, which demonstrates how its meaning is modified online to fit a wide range of contexts. The term is used to denote an act of self-inflicted emotional distress, a deep-rooted issue in a relationship, an instance of post-truth politics. Apart from being utilized to point to a certain type of mistreatment and manipulation, the word has become a hotly debated topic in itself. It is also worth noting that there is a divide in the online conversation surrounding gaslighting, as some Internet users perceive it as a serious psychological issue that must be dealt with immediately, while others dismiss it as nothing more than a trending term and part of the mainstream culture that can be the subject of sarcastic jokes.
 Pletnev, A.V. Future marketing as technology for manipulating symbolic consumption//Technology and Language. 2021. № 2(3). P. 8-15.
 Klenk, M. (Online) manipulation: sometimes hidden, always careless//Review of Social Economy. 2022. Vol. 80, № 1. P. 85-105.
 Cotter, K. ‘Shadowbanning is not a thing’: black box gaslighting and the power to independently know and credibly critique algorithms//Information, Communication & Society. 2021. P. 1-18.
 Mukhamedyarova, K. M. Abusive relationship between men and women// Nauka I Prosveshcheniye, Penza. 2021. Vol. 2. P. 141-144
 Viatkina, N.V., Bobrova, E.A., Gremyakina D.A. Gaslighting as a type of psychological abuse in parent-child relationships//Perm National Research Polytechnic University, Perm. 2020. Vol. 1. P. 53-61.
 ‘Word of the Year 2018: Shortlist’. Oxford University Press. Accessed October 13th 2022. Available at: https://languages.oup.com/word-of-the-year/2018-shortlist/
 ‘Definition of gaslighting’ (entry 2 of 2). Urban Dictionary. Accessed October 15th 2022. Available at: https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Gaslighting
 Rietdijk, N. Post-truth Politics and Collective Gaslighting//Episteme. 2021. P. 1-17.