I won’t deny it – I spend a considerable amount of time on social media. For a while, it seemed out of control; I was missing out on my kids doing small things, missed the key information in a movie we had been watching or started getting angrier than usual over something I had seen on Twitter.
A few weeks ago, someone made a comment on Twitter and it really upset me. I mean, it REALLY upset and hurt me. I am sure it wasn’t said with any callous intentions, but it came from someone who I admire, and it felt like a personal attack that took away from everything that I am. It took me awhile to get over it and come to the realization that as much as I feel like I know and relate to that person, I don’t actually KNOW them – just as they don’t REALLY know me.
Since then, several events have happened online that have made me withdraw and hide in my safe place – offline. Moms attacking other moms for choosing to breastfeed without a cover, feminists saying that you’re not really feminist if you’re not vegan, people claiming to be adults and then subtweeting one another, and you know, other typical and accepted Twitter behaviour.
Now, don’t get me wrong! I love social media – I especially love Twitter and Instagram and as most of you know, I met my closest and best friends through Twitter. But last week something happened that really irked me.
Someone chose to post a video of someone (a stranger) in a very vulnerable situation, obviously without their consent. I thought about it long and hard, knowing that I have been in a similar situation before and thinking how I’d have been devastated had someone posted that video of me, for them and their followers to laugh about.
Now, I am not going to bother going into too much detail because it really doesn’t seem relevant, but it did result in me losing any respect that I once had for that person, and I promptly unfollowed them. However, it did make me think about our behaviour online and I am left wondering if we’ve all just lost our minds, morals and any respect for each other because of social media.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I have one rule in life: Don’t be an asshole.
But am I the only one that feels like social media brings out the assholes in each of us. Like being behind a screen gives you some sort of right to add commentary to someone’s life, without even knowing them? And that the higher your number of followers, the fewer fucks you have to give?
Have you ever read the comment section of a successful person’s video or post? It is so loathed with negativity, making any attempt to bring that person down.
I look at people like Kirbie Johnson, a talented beauty journalist who I have the utmost respect for and who creates content that earns her the opportunity of interviewing some of the most incredible people, and celebs. Yet, her videos are met with criticism over irrelevant things, like her appearance, instead of praise for her hard work.
Another example is our very own Thickleeyonce who recently walked for South African Fashion Week and was met with the nastiest comments, taking away from what should have been an incredible milestone. Just a few weeks ago, she literally broke the internet gaining the acknowledgement of some of the biggest celebrities and body positive activists, after clapping back to someone who tried to make a meme of her and insult her.
And then there’s Blurz, who shook up the gaming community recently when screenshots of his degrading Instagram messages made news causing him to take a break. Upon his return, he said his inappropriate behaviour was just “dark humor,” instead of claiming responsibility for his actions which were bordering rape culture. Worse is the support he has and the number of commenters who rallied behind him, saying that women were overreacting.
In the case of people like Kirbie and Lee, why do people think it is okay to speak badly of them? Do you think they’d say the same things when in the presence of either of them? Better, would they say those things in the presence of their own loved ones whether it be their parents, grandparents, best friends or spouse – what would they think if they had to see the venom that you so willingly spew on a stranger’s successes?
Or in the case of Blurz, or the person who inspired this post. Why does the number of followers you have, make you invincible to repercussions of your actions? Would you have liked someone to send your sister, mother or girlfriend those messages? I am guessing you’d have wanted to rip their heads off and probably wouldn’t have seen the dark humour in it either, hey? What if someone had recorded you in that same situation and had chosen to post it online without your consent? How would you have felt? Better yet, what if that person actually follows you – can you image how shit they must be feeling, having someone who they admire publicly shaming them for the sake of a quick laugh.
I also feel that as readers and followers of these people, by not standing up against this sort of behaviour and calling them out for being twats, we are condoning bullying and encouraging an online movement where it is considered acceptable to exploit others and their vulnerabilities.
I was bullied throughout my schooling career – I was an outspoken nerd. I have loads of opinions, but I also happen to be quite diplomatic and try to see the other side. But when it comes to cyber bullying, I have no time for that. I refuse to sympathise with a bully who is going out of their way to make someone feel shit about themselves, for their own satisfaction. What do you gain from that?
I don’t know guys, as much as social media allows us to connect and engage with people across the world, it also gives people the false sense of power which is creating the ugliest bullies, just waiting to feed on the vulnerabilities of unsuspecting victims.
I live for those rare moments where I see others empowering and encouraging each other instead of breaking one another down. I celebrate the times where people with influence use their platforms for the greater good; it’s rare but it happens.
Social media is a great tool but with it comes great responsibility. By all means, use it to connect and engage with others but before hitting post, perhaps consider whether you’d like for the same things to be said to you or how you’d feel if you had to see those things being said about a loved one.