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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Columns

Social media encourages antisocial, aggressive behavior


The last decade has seen a rise in technological progression and the social media platform. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are meant to encourage social behavior and a sense of community, but it has actually succeeded in doing the opposite.

Basic human rights such as the freedom of expression are on everyone’s mind — especially due to the recent spate of police shootings and what amounts to a race war within the country.

People are now more outspoken than ever on social media. Designated places to form connections have turned into politically-correct forums with people volleying insults back and forth because their opinions are not the same.

Everyone has an opinion that they want to share, and that’s OK, but sometimes the line between freedom of speech and cyberbullying can be very thin.

Joseph Grenny, co-author of New York Times’ best-seller “Crucial Conversations” and Forbes contributor, did a study in 2013 that showed 78 percent of users reported a rise in hostility on social media and two in five people blocking, unsubscribing or unfriending someone due to a virtual argument.

While most arguments on social media are often petty and trivial, sometimes “connecting” is taken to another level.

In May, two Pennsylvania teenagers, 18-year-old Kayla VanWert and 16-year-old Cathleen Boyer, started a feud on Facebook. The two arranged to meet in an alley where Boyer fatally stabbed VanWert in the neck.

Facebook isn’t the only platform of dissolution among the people. Twitter has been known to harbor some of the worst internet trolls because of its appeal to their biggest target: celebrities.

The most recent case of extreme cyberbullying was in the form of the hate mob that flooded comedian Leslie Jones’ account and criticized her appearance in the female-led “Ghostbusters.”

Thanks to her high-profile status, Jones was fortunate enough to attract the attention of Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, to resolve her situation. Redemption came for Jones when her main attacker was banned from Twitter. But not everyone is so lucky.

Teenagers are dying by their own hand now more than ever, and it may be attributed to social media.

On average, teenagers spend nine hours a day on social media. Internet usage exceeding five hours can be linked to suicidal thoughts and depression. It’s not difficult to see the correlation between teen suicide rates and social media from this perspective.

Social media has connected people in ways that would have been impossible two decades ago. Having a pen pal from another country has never been easier, and staying connected to your friends is only a click or swipe away.

Like with all good things, there are disadvantages. Perhaps social media has greater consequences than most choose to acknowledge.

While some have taken to the internet and flourished, it also tends to bring out the worst in people. Behind a screen, someone who is meek and shy has the chance to become bold and outspoken.

There’s less of a chance that speaking one’s mind online will have the same consequences than saying those things face-to-face, and internet users have happily embraced this aspect of social media.

One thing is clear, however: The impact of social media in everyday interaction is important. It can be accessed by anyone, anywhere and nothing is private. How people communicate on social media could change it from a place of respite to one of war.

Columnist Caprice Carter is a communication junior and can be reached at [email protected]

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