Social media began as a means to share news, update friends and frenemies, inform (as well as line inventors’ pockets with money), and you can add your own thoughts as to why these networks came into being.
Not far behind all of these good intentions came the world of hate, jealousy, bullying, denouncing–in other words, people behaving toward strangers in a manner you presume they’d never do in real life.
In the past week, I’ve read about two separate situations in which people, who had no ill intentions, have been badgered online.
One was in the Washington Post, which was a report describing how veterinarians in the US are committing suicide at “rates higher than the general population.” You can read that article here.
Angry pet owners skewer their vets on social media. As a pet owner, this boggles my mind. Yes, I haven’t always been fond of the behavior of some of my vets, or at least one. You never like someone to be gleeful because they were right about a diagnosis when your dog has just been condemned to death, but I also recognize that not everyone has a “petside” manner.
Veterinarians do not go to vet school to become rich. Their school debt far outweighs their starting salary. Despite the number of years and education, a vet starts out at around $67,000 (info from the Post article). On the other hand, an MBA (that’s a Master’s degree, several years less than a vet degree) graduate will start with a mean salary of $110,000. So, we are talking about individuals who become veterinarians because they love and want to help animals.
The second instance also came from a Washington Post article about individuals affected by the government furlough. The writer, who had once been in the Coast Guard and whose husband was still active duty, mentioned that she had a database of information that could assist people who were furloughed. She was attacked on social media because she was telling people who were not receiving paychecks how they could get help, particularly, access to food banks. This fact seemed to raise ire: How dare you use food banks for poor people? Have you not planned well enough?
In the first instance, this seems like the need of people to air their personal grievances in public a la Jerry Springer et al. In the second, it feels like people need to mind other people’s business. In my opinion, I find neither acceptable. I have yet to encounter anyone with all of their ducks in a row who is living a life so virtuous that they could/should judge others…and if they were so virtuous, would they judge others?
I’ve always thought the internet was incredible. We could be in touch with people across the globe, get information instantly (depending on the speed of your connection), play games, buy unnecessary plastic objects, and maybe even share ourselves by blogging. Like everything else that seems too good to be true, the internet has its dark side: hacking, identity theft, trolling, personal attacks, and I’m certain there are more.
One of the worst side effects is dehumanization. We’ve all heard it before. People say things to people on the internet that they would never (or never used to) say in person. (I think the internet may be part of the reason why people say the things they say to people in person these days. It certainly never happened when I was a kid (unless someone was drunk).) People use this forum to tear apart someone with whom they have a grievance. Why? Have we suddenly become inhumane?
I realize that in many ways, despite my age, I am naive. As such, I’d love to hear the opinion of you all, members of the internet world, as to why people find it acceptable to skewer others on social media. Is this a reflection of who we have become? Enlighten me.