Social media is a double-edged sword. It’s beneficial in that it allows people to maintain contact across the world, and it has completely transformed the speed and ways in which information and news are relayed to society.
On the other hand, social media provides a forum in which people no longer have to worry about the things they say, as they’re momentarily hidden behind a phone or computer screen. Some tweets, statuses and comments would certainly never be spoken aloud, which proves that social media serves as a means for comments that can, at times, be somewhat disturbing.
Here are just a few examples in relation to the storm that is currently sweeping the East Coast. These are all public tweets, easily found by simply searching #Sandy or #HurricaneSandy.
“#HurricaneSandy changed course, missed NYC & is now devastating the Jersey Shore. Maybe there is a God after all.”
“What if Gangnam Style was actually just a giant rain dance and we brought this hurricane on ourselves? #Sandy”
And a personal favorite…
“QUICK, LOCK TIM TEBOW INTO THE CROWN OF THE STATUE OF LIBERTY AS A GIFT TO THE ANGRY SEA GODS. #Sandy”
For the most part, these tweets are funny and totally acceptable. If used correctly, humor is a coping mechanism and helps to lighten the gravity of a situation.
Some of the tweets I’ve seen on my own Twitter feed, however, have not been humorous. The number of people who are not currently on the East Coast, yet still have plenty of sarcastic and insensitive things to say about what could turn into a pretty significant disaster, is disheartening.
Please correct me if I’m wrong, but the last time I checked, water levels 11 feet above normal tide, the possibility of 60 million people being affected, mass evacuations and a potential “superstorm” composed of snow, flash floods and power outages is kind of a big deal.
I’m not going to say I’m some sort of expert on what is currently happening on the East Coast, because I’m certainly not. In fact, I had to ask multiple people if this topic was even something I should be writing about, as I myself am struggling to understand the full impact it will have.
My point is not about the severity of the storm but the severity of using social media as a “get out of jail free” card for insensitivity.
Whether it’s in relation to natural disasters, politics or “scandals” occurring on our very own campus, some thought needs to be put in to the 140 characters that make up a tweet or the statuses and comments that get plastered all over Facebook walls.
If you wouldn’t say it aloud, it’s probably not something to be put on social media. And if you’re using social media when overly emotional, it’s probably best to just step away from the computer completely. Trust me. I have personal experience with that one.
So in the upcoming days, think before you post. Remember that there are people on this campus who are from the East Coast, spending the semester studying there or have family in that area dealing with this uncertain time.
And regardless of the outcome of this storm, remember that going forward, it doesn’t matter if your accounts are protected or not. Your tweets and comments will be seen. You never know who might be reading them and whom they could affect.