Vox

Amplifying Assholes: Social Media Reveals Pre-exisiting Flaws

The birth of social media has resulted in more frequent ideological and informational exchange.
The amount we share becomes higher by the day, meaning more of what we do is scrutinized by those in and out of our inner circle. This phenomenon has created a mirage of hypersensitivity.
Collectively, we feel forced to watch what we say.
Our world used to be a much smaller place. Less connection meant less chance that people would hear our opinions and ideologies. Discussions were held at dinner tables and neighborhood bars.
It was likely that the people around your table or in your pub were friends and family members who shared similar viewpoints. There was always a token family member who sat Democrat among Republicans or atheist among Christians, but that kind of small-scale dichotomy was treated as spice in the familial chili.
Now, that dinner table or bar has a few million people sitting at it.
According to Facebook’s own data, there are over one billion people worldwide using Facebook every day. There are over 400 million users on Instagram and millions more on Twitter.
It looks like we’re going to need a bigger table.
Social media has proven to be a forum to highlight the virtuous aspects of our society, as well as the dark and controversial sides. There have always been racists, bigots, ignorant people, religious fanatics and others of the sort.
In modern times, you can hardly say a word on social media because the audience that your tweet or Facebook status is projecting to can always overpower you in opposition.
No matter how benign your comment or idea really is, someone in your digital audience will frown upon it. Now more than ever, neutrality reigns supreme.
People haven’t grown more sensitive in the years. There hasn’t been a massive change in the way people look at the world and approach social issues.
The difference is that people of different convictions and creeds have gone from being miles away to being a series of ellipses on the bottom of your chat box.
It seems as though people do not want to start conversations with the goal of mutual understanding. They would rather skip the hard part of finding mutual ground, leaving nothing remotely close to growth behind.
Social media forums tend to alienate discussion and persecute people of opposing ideology. By abandoning the pursuit of understanding, we throw any chance of cultural growth out of the window. We like to pride ourselves as animals of a higher caliber.
Due to our increased intelligence, we are able to communicate and thrive. Our current social interactions are spitting in the face of that belief.
Ideas that were once out of our personal radius are now knocking on your front door. This is a time of knowing when to shove it.
The people who are able to traverse the proverbial minefield that is social media are those who say the least and read the most. The strongest players don’t assert convictions upon others; instead, they sit and watch.
By doing such, we are able to empathize and work toward a more forward-thinking and hospitable tomorrow.
In short, hypersensitivity does not stem from social media in the way that most would like to believe. It has, in essence, always been present, looming over our heads.
The fact is that our audience has grown so large that it has changed what we can say. What we say reaches a more diverse populace, resulting in inevitable backlash against ignorance or hate speech that was often deemed OK within tight social circles.
There isn’t a surplus of assholes, either. There have always been plenty of those; social media has just provided them a microphone, along with every other person who has something to say.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 14, 2015 print edition of The Echo.
image via ourimgs.com

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