Social Media Skewering

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.





10 thoughts on “Social Media Skewering

  1. Great question! It seems to me that social media creates anonymity, and people who think they will never be known and suffer social consequences for their ugliness will use the social media to hurt others. But that is a coward’s way to me. I rue this incivility of social media.

  2. I just recently started texting (I resisted as long as I could) and I don’t get it. How hard is it to talk to someone? The more we put “stuff” between us, that prevents a personal interaction, the more we lose our humanity.

  3. I never intentionally bury my head in the sand, but I too appear to be naive.
    I’m not on any social media other than WP and apart from a load of spam, I’ve been quite fortunate. IMO Cowards hide behind cyber space in their bullying tactics, have no respect for anyone else, and will whinge when they are the targets.

  4. We are not nearly as civilized as we pretend to be. There’s wide spectrum of humanity. The human race produced Hitler & Gandhi. We all have the capability of good and evil. MLK Jr. repeatedly cheated on his wife. I think social media, and the internet in general, allows us to amplify all sides of humanity. It allows us to reach out and communicate with people from around the world. It’s not even 9 a.m. here, and I’ve already recieved messages from people in Canada & Croatia. I’m a very shy person. I might spend all day out in my own town and hardly talk to anybody. When I do, I can’t hide my awkwardness for long. I can hide it online.

    On the other hand, it allows us to spread our cruelty. Imagine Hitler’s Twitter. Or just save your imagination and read Trump’s. It has allowed us to vent our insecurities on others.

    It gives us time and opportunity to craft our thoughts to hide our awkwardness, hone our cruelties or everthing in between. Social media is just another tool, a very powerful tool, humanity has used to spread its humanity. Yes, the freedom it provides makes us bolder in real life for, again, good or bad.

    What were we saying the other day about novel comments?

    1. I hear you! I wonder if supposedly average “good” don’t think twice about becoming venomous on the interwebz. Or maybe they are just being more themselves? Or perhaps they feel their self-righteousness has a larger audience for whom they are also speaking. And maybe it’s futile to try to understand. (Novella)

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