What a funny world we live in. A world filled with strangers and so called online personas. A place where we are believed to have the freedom of expression to say whatever our little heart desires. But where does one draw the line when it comes to verbally attacking someone you’ve never met?
Social media – where we unbiasedly criticise and label it as an opinion, where opinions become sources of information, where sources of information can turn someone from relatively unknown to an overnight celebrity – yet the very generation known for its extensive use of this digital medium continues to deny its ability to change or affect a lives on the daily.
We live amidst a generation that seems to have alluded to their belief in the power of this social media source – despite witnessing it more times than we would care to admit. We hide behind terms like “it’s just twitter” or “this isn’t real life” yet here we are, affecting the lives of a bunch of strangers – directly and indirectly.
Have we forgotten about the 15-year old rape and cyber-bullying victim who took her own life because of the mere words of strangers, or the kidnap victim whose tweets helped people track her down and save her life? What about the friendships that have started on the internet and developed into life-long relationships, or those who have found love on the internet?
It seems that we, the very generation that deny its influence are the very people who do the most damage to each other on our Timelines. Ironically, life goes on as if nothing has happened. On the surface its all gravy as we play it cool; I mean, internet-gods forbid that anyone sees us other than that – cool. But deep down we harbour hatred towards people we’ve never laid out eyes on and when we’re unlucky enough to run into them offline our conversations are every bit as pretentious as one could imagine it to be.
It’s sort of a weird culture that we’ve developed, where our inhumane treatment of others are simply reactions to something they said or did, something that – even though many deny it – affects them because its sting hits a little too close too home. It’s interesting to watch how one can go from being cruel to someone else, to merely tolerating their online presence without harbouring any negative energy towards them, and yet many aren’t capable of grasping that some people mature and change and so does their online presence and persona.
Are we so trapped in the world we’ve created for ourselves online that we forget that the very people we attack are human-beings just like us, who have feelings – just like us – and aren’t always going to react the same way we do? Maybe we are the problem; maybe we are incapable of acknowledging that fact. Have we completely separated ourselves from who we are to what we do daily in our lives? Surely what we text and tweet have been floating around in our thoughts… right?
We are a generation equipped with faster, almost immediate forms of communication. How we use it is dependent on the individual. We see it happen to famous and even the not-so-famous persona’s where the verbal attacks are ruthless, malicious, and personal. Is this life? This digital platform allows scrutiny on so many levels and turns off-the-cuff Timeline scandal into a media parade which (if there’s enough interest) has the potential to make its way onto our TV screens and radio. Indirectly, internet thugs provide free PR to anyone who cares.
You could say the insight is perpetuated by our media but is that reason enough for people to taunt and ridicule another human being because their tweet was not an opinion we agreed with, or because we think we might know better? In a face-to-face situation, would you attack them as you do behind your phone or computer screen? And if it is your online persona, who is the mastermind behind it all?
A generation of vultures awaiting the carcass of someone we don’t know personally so we can feed off of the negativity that will come from their situation as “shits and giggles”. Vultures – that’s what we are. We’re stuck in our own utopia, fueled by nothing but hatred for people we might never get to meet; and for what?
We underestimate our words. We don’t know their full impact on the target neither the repercussions. Lord forbid a lawsuit is issued against you for defamation of character for the fouls tweets you post. Would “Its just twitter” cut it in the court of law?
So here we ask you: is the hierarchy of strangers we’re so obsessed with, fueled by verification ticks and number of followers,worth losing the very thing that makes us human; our ubuntu?
P.S. That ‘Unfollow’ button can become your best friend for the sake of world peace. Hit it with the utmost fake swag you could possibly exhibit.
Co-Written With: Siphiwe Zwane ( @SDotJR_)
Edited by: Myrna Burgess ( @MsTaboo)