140 Characters of Power
You have more power than you may realize. Well, in the world of social media at least. Thanks to today’s wide variety of social medias, you have the power to reach hundreds and thousands of individuals just with a tweet under 140 characters. However, with all great power comes great responsibility.
Today, it is much easier to post about negative events than it is a positive one. Whether it is a bad experience at a restaurant or a bad choice of movie, we just cannot wait to tell others of our experience. Not only that, but even an uncomfortable interaction can have a huge residual effect across social media. One thing is for sure when posting negatively on social media: nobody is safe.
Now, these messages not only affect the subject, but also the individual that uploaded the content as well. When we see a negative post online, there are a variety of impressions that are made. Some users may feel sad for the poor experience. However, others may find the the comments to be whining or nagging, and one could wonder why they chose to settle the score online as opposed to in person. What is important to note is that when these posts go public, it becomes much more than one’s personal issue.
The Act of Shamming
When Adria Richards attended PyCon back in 2013, she was expecting an intriguing and informative technological conference. What she got was derogatory conversation that ultimately had cost Richards her job. In the article “Why You Should Think Twice Before Shaming Anyone on Social Media,” author Laura Hudson describes how two men began an uncomfortable conversation behind Richards – disgusting and infuriating her. Richards turned around in her seat, but instead of informing the men of her distaste, she took a photo, commented about their lewd behavior, and posted it to twitter.
Due to her high follower base, the tweet was retweeted many times and reached across the country. PyCon reached out to Richards about the experience, but the ramifications were outside what anybody could have thought. The story reached major news stations, and ended up costing one of the men his job. Due to that, Richards herself lost her job. Even after this event, shaming has continued across social media.
History Repeats Itself
When Matt Taylor and his team landed a spacecraft on a comet, he wasn’t met with cheering. Instead, Taylor was met with anger over the shirt he was wearing during his speech at a STEM conference. The shirt was covered with semi-nude women, which provoked feminists to attack Taylor across social media, and he was asked to make a formal apology. Within twenty-four hours, Taylor, with tears in his eyes, apologized to any woman that felt offended.
However, the internet was set ablaze by the story. After it was discovered that the shirt was made personally by a female friend, thousands of users chose to back Taylor and his shirt. Woman were praising Taylor for his choice of attire, and memes of the shirt lit up social media feeds under the name #Shirtstorm. The shirt itself was quickly sold out of stock, and a fundraiser was set up to properly award Taylor and his team for their overshadowed work. What was intended as an act of feminism, in turn promoted the group negatively.
Another story features Brad Knudson, the father of an adoptive black daughter who received racist Snapchats from her classmates. Knudson reached out to the father of the children for an apology, but he was met with an equally racist voicemail from the father. After realizing he was not going to receive any apology, he decided to post the Snapchats and voicemails to social media.
The videos touched many people, and they were shared over and over again. Several comments expressed support for the Knudson family, and the father that left the voicemail lost his job two days after the video was posted. Even the Knudson’s daughter’s high school went forward to investigate the incident further.
An Unforeseeable Outcome
Social media is a dangerous game. When you take your frustration to it, you never truly know what the outcome will be. On social media, everybody has a voice. However, that means everybody has the opportunity to listen. If you’re upset, the best thing you can do is handle your anger outside of social media. Work it out before you type it out.
Hudson, Laura. “Why You Should Think Twice Before Shaming Anyone on Social Media | WIRED.” Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, 24 July 2013. Web. 08 Feb. 2015.
LaBelle, Lindsey. “Father of Alleged Prior Lake Snapchat Bullies Loses Job.” KMSP-TV. Myfox9.com, 21 Jan. 2015. Web. 08 Feb. 2015.
“#Shirtstorm Backlash: Internet Steps up to Defend Rosetta Scientist.” RT News. Rt.com, 23 Nov. 2014. Web. 08 Feb. 2015.