Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Youtube. They’re huge platforms for anyone to access. It’s easy to say that social media has vastly changed our society, and with good reason. People can express themselves with just a few taps on their phone – suddenly, a lot more is within reach.
Yet, with great power comes great responsibility. It’s surely our duty to use these grand opportunities to raise awareness for worthy causes – enough of these silly kitten videos and gifs of people falling over, we want to change the world.
And that’s where we start to go wrong.
You see, as we all have freedom of speech, this is where people will disagree drastically. Some will say that sites like Twitter and Facebook should be used for just fun. We want to see pictures of people’s holidays and their dogs pulling funny faces, and in no way do we want to face the harsh reality of life going on around us. Hell, that’s why we go on the internet, isn’t it? Others will argue that we shouldn’t be wasting our lives giving people money for giving up alcohol (I mean, fair enough if you’re doing it for health reasons, but asking other people to give you money to help yourself? Nah, mate), and instead we should be signing petitions to stop animal cruelty and spread news of suffering from around the world that maybe the mainstream media isn’t covering.
My opinion? Both sides are right. There is a place for both of these things in social media, and that’s what makes it so fantastic. You shouldn’t be shunned for wanting to look at stupid videos of cats or for taking those completely accurate quizzes that tell you what your spirit animal is. The same goes for raising awareness; if you’re passionate about something, why not post about it on social media?
This is where I think a problem starts to form, and it’s after months – well, years – of being subjected to something that maybe I don’t want to see. I’m all for people raising awareness and talking about something they care about. I completely agree most of the time – yes those people are barbaric, what they’re doing to those animals is unjust and cruel, the media not covering this is entirely wrong. Here comes the BUT. But, no one, no one at all, has the right to decide what people will see. There is no reason why you should be forcing people to watch videos or see pictures that are clearly upsetting – because let me tell you, seeing pictures of the many bodies from a school shooting is very different to reading a post about it.
Auto-play on facebook has become problematic in this context. I have unwillingly seen things that I will never be able to forget, and not in a good way at all. Instead of inciting me with your video of animals being tortured, you’ve made me not want to read what you’re saying at all. I will click out of Facebook upset and probably unfollow you – effectively meaning that not only has your attempt failed, but I will not read what it is your saying ever again in the fear of what I’ll see.
‘Trigger Warning’ is a phrase you might see a lot on the internet, and to put it simply is does what is says on the tin – it’s a warning to people watching a video or reading a post that it may ‘trigger’ someone who might find the content upsetting. It’s necessary, and likely vital, that people include trigger warnings because you have no idea what you’re posting can affect someone. Maybe your post about rape will trigger someone who was sexually abused. You have no idea what a few pictures or words can do to someone.
This is where I think we can do right – when you post something, it takes only a few seconds to think about whether or not what you’re posting is sensitive. You can put a quick trigger warning at the top to make sure you don’t cause harm to anyone, and there you go. I still believe that it is by no means ok to be posting or sharing videos directly, but that doesn’t mean you can’t leave a link for people to follow to read about it more. What I don’t want to see are pictures of elephants being whipped, or of dogs being beaten, or animals in cages, or live chicks being put into an industrial blender, or of dead babies lying out in the cold, or dismembered bodies after a terrorist attack. Raising awareness does not have to include such graphic images.
A video has been made recently by Youtuber Thomas Ridewell on the topic of shock sharing, which if you’re interested in you should watch here. He brings up another issue of sharing pictures and videos like the ones mentioned above, and that is of desensitising. By posting these things again and again, people lose interest and become desensitised when they see it. You’re making something that is abhorrent just a normal occurrence on someone’s timeline, and where the hell is the good in that?
So, for everyone’s sake, think about what you post on social media and make sure you’re not doing more harm than good. A picture may well say a thousand words, but that by no means is justification for not writing about something than sharing a graphic picture. And hey, if it’s a topic that you’re passionate about and feels like it deserves attention, then surely it deserves the time you put in to write those all important words? Just a thought.