by Ethan Clarke
Social Media is an excellent new form of media in the era of technology. People are able to connect easier than ever before, and information can be shared with thousands in minutes. Many people today turn to social media for news rather than traditional papers or television channels. While this is not going to be another critical bashing on something as useful as social media, it should be understood that there is a downside to this newer phenomenon.
Social media networks including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat are all great forms of communication, no question about it. However, there is one fatal flaw with social media, and unfortunately, that very flaw is the same thing that makes it great. There is no privacy.
Yes, a user of any of the listed sites can communicate with selected users, and Facebook has taken a great deal of initiative in keeping information contained; however, it’s simply not possible with the formula of social media. Once something is out in the world, it is out there forever. Many people doubt their private snap has already expired, and there’s no way someone who wasn’t meant to see it will see it. However, all it takes is one person to save the snap or video that has been uploaded. Then, that media is in the hands of that person, which they might choose to share with their friends, or upload themselves, and it becomes a snowball effect. Eventually, thousands of people have seen something that was meant for your significant other or friend.
This was seen recently when a Caucasian high schooler and her friends (names were kept confidential), decided to use their shirts to spell out a racial slur. It was intended to be a joke, and the image was meant to be kept private between them and their friends; however, it was immediately snatched up into the grasp of social media, where it became a huge controversial issue. Obviously, the administration of Desert Vista High School faced massive backlash and political pressure following the release of the photo, to ‘do something about these racists’. The girls now face disciplinary actions, including the loss of a graduation ceremony and prom, for something that wasn’t meant to offend anyone. Is that a fair punishment?
Say what you may about the girls in the photo (ignorant comes to mind), however, was a punishment necessary? What social media didn’t tell you is that the girls didn’t know the photo would get beyond their circle of friends, all of which found the ‘joke’ funny and inoffensive. Should they be responsible for offending strangers across social media? Tying back into the fatal flaw with social media, there is no privacy. This essentially means that complete strangers to you can stumble across your ‘controversial’ photo and feel entitled to voice their opinion on it, because they were offended by it. “They think it’s funny, they know it’s offensive, but they don’t have the historical background and they need to be educated,” said Lisa Scinto, a retired African American teacher who worked at Desert Vista between 1997 and 2001. Lisa Scinto, a stranger, with absolutely no relation to the high schoolers, feels the need to comment on the issue simply because she is African American. While she may feel ‘targeted’ by the slur, it clearly wasn’t directed at her, and she wasn’t involved. Of course, Lisa was just one of many who commented on the photo.
This is seen all the time, when events are twisted into bigger issues than they are, like in the Michael Brown shooting. A tragic incident regardless, but social media brought national attention to police brutality, when the officer wasn’t at fault based on factual evidence. Social media may just be the most biased news source of them all.
Social media obviously shouldn’t be done away with. It’s understandable why some would be offended by the photo taken by white teenagers. The lesson to be learned by this incident is that nothing you post on social media stays private, especially if it’s controversial. Not only were the girls ignorant for spelling out the slur as a ‘joke’, but also by failing to realize how much negative attention they would attract towards them and their school.