Following the events of the United flight early last week, wherein a man had to be forcibly removed from a plane due to not following procedure, United Airlines has been receiving a lot of negative backlash from media. (Read the story here.) Since the incident, people have been taking to social media to voice their complaints. This is not a new phenomenon, as social media was created as an outlet to connect with friends, family, communities, as well as various corporations.
The older I have gotten, the less I agree with complaining about your life or problems on social media. While occasionally it has done some moderate good, such as getting in touch easier and quicker with stores and sometimes even state politicians, I do not think it should be a default. If you want to complain, call your mom.
This incident with United Airlines became very personal for me, very quickly.
This is my little brother Patrick, who was at the Newark Airport back in March with my step-mother, off to visit family in Florida. My brother, who is a major dog-lover, was ecstatic when a United service dog came up to greet him and a service member snapped a picture. It appeared on United's official Facebook page soon after.
This past week, following the situation on a United flight, the comments on this original Facebook post turned very nasty. Featured comments along the lines of:
"This photo was taken about 40 minutes before the boy was given a skull fracture by a flight attendant moments after asking for apple juice... everyone knows only terrorists drink apple juice, that's how you know."
"The dog in this photo was most likely used to forcebly remove a paying passenger from the plane shortly after this photo was taken." (Yes, forcibly was spelled that way.)
I also witnessed my brother being called a "loser kid" and many people commenting on the fact that he is white.
Few and far between, were about two comments about how this is someone's child, and that it's not fair to be taking out your misplaced anger on social media on a post about a child and a dog. And to that I say: Yes. This is a person's child. This is my little brother, who is sweet, kind, intelligent, and wonderful. This is my little brother, a real person, whom people think it's okay to attack simply because they have read the wrong news outlet or heard the wrong information secondhand, and not correctly understood what happened on the United flight. I encourage you to understand that while you cower behind your computers and phones, this is a child with a heart and emotions, and I am so glad he does not have the displeasure of seeing any of these comments. He is in no way affiliated with United Airlines, and by the way, was not dragged off the plane by anyone, much less this dog. If you are one of the people who have commented on this picture and have a problem with the way the airline handles things, you can be a contributing member of society and write a letter and have your voice heard by someone who will actually listen. Your opinions on social media mean nothing - I hate to break it to you. This is a little shout out to those of you who feel as though you are important enough to anyone in this company or any other company that they will be hurt over anything you say on social media. My brother is not a "loser kid" - he is and will be a better human being than any of you are.
We as Americans have the amazing, often taken for granted right of freedom of speech and the freedom to use social media to voice our opinions, we have abused it. This is not how you bring about any kind of change. Social media backlash is not the correct way to handle perceived injustice, nor your societal issues. There is a certain etiquette and awareness that is important to use when interacting with other people - the same should be implicated for social media use.
In conclusion: if you feel real injustice is taking place, here are my proposed steps to remedy it.
1. Do Your Research
As with anything, you cannot form an accurate argument until you have all of the information. I encourage you to look deeper into the problem or situation you have seen or have been faced with. in United's situation, they actually broke no laws or protocol.
2. Contact the Right People - the Right Way.
Whiny Facebook posts are virtually nothing in comparison to an actual phone call. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram comments do no good, unless you're some sort of celebrity. As aforementioned, the best way to have your voice heard, if it really means that much to you, is to write a letter or pick up the phone and call. Yes, this takes far more time than a ten sentence Facebook post does, but your voice will be heard by someone who might actually care, if you have a valid point to make.
3. Better yet...
Call or visit your local politicians office. They are there to help you. Discuss with them the possibility or plausibility of passing laws or bills to keep things from happening twice.
There you have it. A full three step solution.
Please be a decent human being on social media. Real people are reading your comments, and real people are behind the screen. Real people are part of the picture.