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Does Social Media Encourage Insensitivity? (EDITORIAL)

February 5, 2019

In this modern age of technology, society’s access to the internet continues to influence how we respond to daily situations. Social media allows us to communicate in ways we never have before, creating a need for new guidelines in terms of how we connect with others. Specifically, social media inherently promotes insensitivity among its users, which causes people to act differently behind a screen than they would in real life.

A prime example of this behavior can be found within the comment sections of social media platforms, including Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. Although platform users may be less likely to criticize people they are familiar with online, celebrities receive thousands of comments daily from users all around the world. Despite the supportive comments a celebrity may receive, the positive statements can easily be overshadowed by the negative ones.

Morgan Tata (‘19) said, “I think that people are definitely bolder on social media than in real life. Especially if their username is not their actual or real name, they’ll be more likely to comment something mean or offensive.”

Whether the post depicts a celebrity at an event, their children, or a political standpoint, it is sure to be met by some form of brutal backlash. For instance, on Instagram, celebrity mothers are met with relentless mom-shaming when they decide to share the ways in which they choose to raise their children. Pop singer P!nk, who is the mother of two children, faces an endless amount of criticism online as a result of her posts with her children. For example, in July of 2017, P!nk posted an image in which she is seen cooking with her son in a baby wrap. In spite of P!nk’s innocent intentions, her followers were quick to scold the singer for positioning her son so close to the stove.

Sarah Munera (‘20) said, “I do not think that people should always voice their opinions in the comment sections because at the end of the day, it’s the celebrity’s life, and they make their own decisions. We wouldn’t like it if someone did the same thing to us. The only possible exception to this is when something the celebrity is doing is straight up wrong.”

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Dinner time

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Instead of supporting those who choose to share their personal lives, social media users are quick to judge the choices other parents make for their children. This toxic behavior among adults continues to promote online negativity. People have a right to voice their opinions, but when they do so in a condescending way, no one benefits, and insensitivity is perpetuated.

Furthermore, it is not just what we comment that may be deemed insensitive, but also what we post. On platforms like Twitter, users aim to entertain others through short, quirky statements that may be followed by a picture or a meme. However, Twitter is also notorious for its role in the expansion of “Call-Out Culture,” which contributes heavily to the platform’s heated comments.

Over the course of the last few years, controversial, racist, and homophobic tweets of several people in the limelight have resurfaced, exposing how truly insensitive we can be to the trials of other people. Alarmingly, social media users post these comments in order to amuse others, and in some cases, reflect their true ideologies in a way that directly attacks the hardships of specific groups of people, which is never acceptable.

People will even go as far as to make light of devastating tragedies that affected hundreds of people. Reactions to the recent Netflix documentary series “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” illustrates this behavior. The series depicts Bundy’s numerous crimes through first-hand accounts, news segments, and the words of Bundy himself. Despite the extent of Bundy’s horrific crimes, after the release of the show, users took to Twitter to romanticize him by labeling him as “attractive” and “hot,” an action conveying blatant disregard for Bundy’s victims, as well as the suffering of their families. 

In addition to these practices, impulsive actions are also common among social media users. Owners of various platform accounts are quick to incriminate others as soon as they are accused of any form of wrongdoing. Rather than taking time to think rationally by placing events into context or gathering all of the facts, people automatically condemn the person before they can even defend themselves. Individuals on social media fail to consider how they would feel if they were in the same position, providing a true glimpse into the extent of our lack of sympathy for others.

Because of this lack of regard for others on social media, we become much bolder behind a screen than we are in person. We shameslessly attack others, offer up our judgements, and behave in ways we know are wrong. We become immune to the emotions of others when they make mistakes, experience loss, or share how they choose to live their lives.

Recently, popular YouTubers Ethan and Grayson Dolan suffered the loss of their father Sean Dolan. After they shared this news with their fans, people were quick to make plans to show up to funeral in the hopes of meeting the twins. In response, the Dolans both had to release statements pleading with their followers not to attend. The tweets written by fans hoping to attend the funeral included several messages that were disrespectful to the memory of the Dolan twins’ father, such as the use of the hashtag “#seandolanfuneralparty.”

Alexis Ortega (‘19) said, “I understand that the fans want to be there to show their support for them [the Dolan twins], but acting so insensitive to a situation that is so personal to them, when they do not even know who the Dolans are on a personal basis, is a step too far. I think it is beyond fair of them [the Dolan twins] to ask their fans not to show up to their father’s funeral.”

Overall, as a society, we need to learn that there should not be a difference between our actions in person and how we behave online. Just as we must respect the emotions and dignity of the people we see on a daily basis, we must also be considerate of those we encounter on the internet, including celebrities and other users we may not know. 

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