Social Media: Breaking hearts for breaking news?

The onset of social media in today’s society has caused some major changes in the way we receive and react to news.  Many view it as a positive thing, and they absolutely have a point.  There’s a certain beauty in an event taking place across the globe being beamed to people on the other side of the world in a matter of seconds.  Media outlets are now able to offer live, up-to-the-minute updates as events take place and people from anywhere can offer comments or criticisms on pretty much anything they want.  In other words, the “Breaking News story” is starting to move out of the jurisdiction of television and radio, and moving into the hip, trendy world of social media.

Still, as with most revolutionary technologies, there will be those people who choose to use social media to achieve less honorable goals.  One of the major selling points of social media is the public’s ability to interact with news outlets, businesses, and public figures.  This allows public reaction to an event or issue to be easily gauged simply by reading social media responses.  The only issue: we may not always like what we see.

When this happens, you get the situation that occurred with the crowning of 2013’s Miss America Pageant winner this past September.  The winner, Nina Davuluri, was the first ever Miss America winner of Indian descent.  However, what should have been an exciting moment turned into an angry one as people took to social media, particularly Twitter, to voice their disapproval.  Many of the tweets (some of which have since been deleted) were scathing, almost hilarious in their ignorance, and made references to 9/11, Al-Queda, and the well-known gas station 7-11, to name a few.

Besides the obvious worry of people not being able to tell the difference between Indian and Arab, there is the deeper problem of so many people coming forward so enthusiastically with such hurtful comments.  Davuluri herself brushed off the negative tweets in an interview with USA Today, saying “I have to rise above that.  I always viewed myself as first and foremost an American.”  Still, this problem of cruelty must be linked to social media.  It is reasonable to assume these people would not come forward nearly as vocally had they been doing, say, a TV interview or commenting for a newspaper article.  The anonymity of being someone in a faceless crowd of computer users provides all the confidence that is needed to voice less acceptable thoughts and opinions, without fear of open backlash.  That confidence has allowed social media to become a platform for cruelty.  In fact, a study done by the Washington Post found that 9 in 10 teenagers witness bullying or other types of cruelty through social media.  So, ultimately, we should be wary of depending too heavily on it.  Empowered behind their keyboards, people will show their true colors.  And when that happens, someone will eventually end up hurt.


Sources: USA Today, Washington Post

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