How social media creates a vortex of outrage with no solution
By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press, Sept 4, 2015
Cecil the lion, the drowned Syrian boy, and even Kony 2012: it seems as though social media today is a place where we air our grievances. Yet, after we’ve blown enough hot air at a topic, we move on to the next one. Social media is a great place to gain an audience, but it seems as though awareness is as effective as a like button.
There is so much misguided information floating around the Internet today that we aren’t solving critical problems intelligently; we prefer a mob mentality. After the death of Cecil the lion, the online world became outraged by the act of trophy hunting—and in a way, all hunting in general. With obvious nearsighted Western thinking, many couldn’t see the positive side to controlled hunting, hunting as a way to sustain national parks and control the population of potentially dangerous or pesky animals. Instead of educating themselves, we publicly demanded the head of a Minnesota dentist. It’s this type of thinking that makes many appear hypocritical.
Social media as a vessel to bring awareness to the masses has created an audience of self-righteous pundits that happily add to the noise, but do little to end it.
Pointing the lens at an overlooked crisis, social media decided to over-share the image of a drowned Syrian boy washed on a Turkish shore. It’s obviously a terrible sight, especially slotted in between newsfeed favourites: vacation pictures, selfies, and images of food. Many weren’t only outraged by the migrant crisis in Europe, but also by the fact that social media is now the platform people use to upset, guilt, and shame.
Yes, we are all nodding our head saying that what has happened is awful, but there is so much horror in the world, why share it with our morning cup of coffee? Why create activists out of people who are clearly only capable of being idle? Why shove it down our throats?
I’m not a proponent of censorship, but I am a strong supporter of context. So many people who’ve seen the dead Syrian boy are oblivious to the current crisis. They see a dead toddler and they react without thinking. Blinded by rage, all they are able to do is condemn whatever wrongdoing is taking place in the world. This is our crisis. This is a problem. The world of social media has become so easily manipulated that we are now zombies to whatever power of persuasion the networks want to use against us. People are reading misinformation sourced by other misinformation, and that leads to a vicious cycle of misguided points-of-view. We don’t know what we’re talking about, and, when we do, we have no way of acting, no solution, just stealth-shaming others.
There needs to be a change in the way we consume and discuss content and crisis online. Is a comment thread the best way to have an intelligent discourse? I don’t think so; I think it’s more of a toilet bowl we are all vomiting into.