Social media is a big platform of the 21st century that gives people, regardless of where they come from, a voice. It is widely accessible to almost everyone nowadays, and it has made it easier for people to engage, democratically through debate, in issues that affect society as a whole. But what I’ve noticed is that, most if not all the time, most of the debates and engagements that happen online usually conclude with insults hurled against the opposition. It’s like people want to be listened to but don’t want to listen to others. Why is that?
I think it’s because most people are ignorant, hard-headed and some are somewhat narcissistic. As a result, most initiators of a topic, instead of dealing with the person who is seemingly hard-headed in a civil manner, would rather insult them so they can protect their sanity. They do this because they think that the more they try explain things to them, is the more it is like their ears are filled with wax or they are talking to a brick wall.
Yes, I have to admit that there are people on social media who are not informed on issues and don’t want to be informed on them because they’re ignorant, stupid or just don’t care, and proceed to share their uninformed opinions anyway. They will even go to lengths of protecting their uninformed opinions, making it hard for the person who initiated the discussion to stand, and even end up getting them blocked. The ignorant persons, most of the time, are the ones who hurl the insults first. They will say stuff like, “This author has inhaled glue before typing this,” or “You must be on drugs”, or even curse at them outright.
Another popular insult they use is discrediting. A girl could write a post about rape, explaining it in its entirety and talking about it in an in-depth analysis, only to get discredited by commenters because of her past. For example, they could say she once lied or made a uniformed comment on another subject, which most of the time you can find is totally unrelated to rape. But people will dig it up and be like, “is this you? The person who once said the sun is the one rotating around Earth? Are you the person we should be listening to on such big and sensitive matters such as rape?”
Maybe it’s because Social Media is not strictly regulated like other publications, such as magazines and newspapers, where one’s comments regarding a particular subject are vigorously reviewed by many editors before they could go to print and get published. On social media, your comment is published in a matter of seconds, right after pressing that send button. That’s why people insult freely and it’s up to the initiator to report or delete those malicious comments themselves. It is tiring, if not impossible, to sometimes delete all those comments, especially when your post has gone viral and got shared thousands of times. You will be forced to either delete the post entirely, which can be interpreted as you retracting your views as whole; or just disable your account until the steam blows off, which, because you are being silenced, is defeating the purpose of engagements.
Others argue that it is not their responsibility to educate people on matters, and I fully disagree. It is our duty to teach and hold each other accountable. Because if we don’t, those people, because they are uneducated, are the ones who’ll spread wrong information, and when you try to hold them accountable for their views, they will claim it wasn’t their fault they were misinformed since there was no information. It wouldn’t be fair, if you think about it, to punish a person who didn’t know any better.
I don’t know what’s the way forward to make social media a safer space that is insult and vulgar free, because all these major social media platforms already have policies in place that try to enforce and ensure a safer and productive space. But people seem to be breaking those policies out of spite, and end up getting suspended. What I do know, though, is that this kind of abuse and bullying should stop, and I am pleading with people who are active on social media to be considerate of others. Even when a person shares something you disagree with, engage them in a manner that is civil and not harmful. Don’t swear at them or insult them. Insults never teach a person. They just incite further violence. We should teach each other because when we do, we will become better and do better because we know better, making the world a better place.
Tell us: How has social media changed your life?