Social media is one of the most important innovations that have been introduced to modern technology. It is the number one way to gain instant access to current events. In a matter of seconds, I caught up in the latest celebrity gossip, I learned how the U.S Men’s Swim Team win gold in the 4x100 freestyle relay in the Rio Olympics, and I learned how an Indian activist ended a 16 year hunger strike in her efforts to pledge running in the political office. All of this came up in my search bar after browsing on my twitter. That is how instantaneous the Internet has become. Social media has the ability to connect people from all over the world. The role that social media play in our lives has become so present and essential that it is becoming part of a cultural shift. There’s a lot of power in social media. Using social media as a positive platform can be extremely effective in educating users in topics such as racial issues, politics, feminism, sexuality and body image, LGBTQ+ community, and so on and so forth. Now, with that being said the way you use social media is important. What goes online stays FOREVER. Even if you delete a post, it will find its way back. Sadly, some of those with access to social media do not always choose to use it wisely. Let’s remember that words on the Internet have consequences and so do our actions. People influence other people. If one perpetuates negative ideas on social media, others will jump on board the bandwagon. Over the past few years, this problem has gradually grown into an alarmingly dangerous issue.
Social media has sparked an ongoing serious problem known as Cyber bullying. Cyber bullying is the act of deliberately harming a person, often using crude language and/or hateful messages to harass online users. I acknowledge that social media is not to blame. It is a GREAT tool to use if we use it correctly. However, the reality is that people have no problem leaving negative comments on a computer screen. This behavior definitely exemplifies signs of a person’s own insecurities when they choose to target others. People do not leave these nasty comments for no reason. Internal hatred and self-loathing is often a reason why people lash out on the Internet. This internal hatred can cause more damage than cyber bullying. As I said before, people influence other people. Some people may not necessarily be intentionally hurting another person yet they can unknowingly contribute to triggering other emotions. This includes to romanticizing and/or glorifying abusive relationships, mental illness, anxiety & depression, eating disorders and disabilities. Media, in general, has a habit of stigmatizing ANYTHING. The most recent account of this is the new “Suicide Squad” film, featuring Jared Leto for eight minutes. Fans of the comic series and films have gone far to romanticize an extremely abusive and manipulative relationship. When a fan says, “He’s just as crazy as her,” you know there is something wrong with that statement. Even though the relationship in the comics clearly displays domestic abuse, people try to justify that it is okay “because he loves her.” If someone can blatantly excuse this behavior in a relationship, what does that say about how we (viewers) react and respond to these issues? It is the same ignorant thinking that is responsible for trivializing mental illnesses. How often do you read a comment along the words of “She’s/He’s faking it for attention,” or “Just stop being sad.” As if depression is something that can be cured instantaneously. It’s understandable though, if someone does not have any experience with mental illness, how would they be able to relate? However, the problem is that people interpret depression & anxiety incorrectly. Depression is not a mood. It is not always “feeling sad” but it is a constant weight that lingers everyday. Depression is a medical condition- that has to do with an imbalance of chemicals within the brain. I use this as an example because I also realize that not everyone will understand why some things can be triggering for people who have experienced the topics I mentioned previously.
So how do we learn from all this? How can we learn to use social media in an effective way that will educate others around us instead of tearing others apart? Social media is also about responsibility. I like to think that the Internet is a privilege that we are given. We have to take responsibility for what we say and do publicly. So what will you do? What do you want our generation to be known for? One that supports people to bring others down for their own satisfaction or one that continuously exhibits ignorant thinking? If you don’t like what you are seeing online speak up! Talk about these issues because I assure you that others will also see that. If you can use your platform to your advantage- use it!