I’ve talked about the role Social Media plays in our lives, how in some cases it is affecting our ability to effectively communicate with one another both physically and verbally .
I’ve talked about the ‘trolls’ who take to the social networks to verbally abuse other users.
I want to discuss the role social media has played in the Steubenville case. Social media is no longer simply an environment where users can share their thoughts and opinions, it is becoming a communicating tool with its own language, breeding a culture that is not entirely healthy. Is it all down to Social media? I would say no, human nature and the attitudes each user brings to their network is also a reflection on the unsavoury culture that has been gradually getting worse and becoming a serious cause for concern. Social media has been used to victimise, taunt and humiliate users in the way of trolls. Groups have been setup up to help users protect themselves but until now legal action had not always been taken. Not necessarily because a crime had not been committed but because those posting the hate filled messages were hiding behind their profiles and pseudonyms with social networking sites reluctant to pass on user details to the relevant authorities.
Then the Steubenville case reared its ugly head. Through the use of social media, in particular YouTube and Twitter, a young survivor who had already been violated physically and emotionally had to suffer further when it was discovered her ordeal had been documented by her abusers through YouTube. I’ve used the word survivor instead of victim here as I believe the young female in question has had to stand strong against those who used her body for their own satisfaction whilst she lay unconscious. While others stood by and did nothing. Then to have her community turn against her and show their support for the straight A grade, football stars, details we are constantly reminded of. These so called intelligent ‘A grade football stars’ failed to realise that once anything is uploaded onto the internet, no matter how many times you delete it, it is out there permanently. Yet these bright sparks and those who were aware of these boys had done, still thought they would get away with it.
Following the conviction of the two rapists, supporters of the ‘football stars’ took it upon themselves to show their disagreement of the verdict by sending threatening messages to the survivor via Twitter and Facebook. This time those who sent the messages were found and charged. Following this example social accounts of those who have also harassed the survivor have either been deleted or made private.
As the Steubenville case ends in a conviction news of another case involving high school football stars emerges in Torrignton, with the young survivors (sadly there is more than one survivor in this case) also being bullied online. In both these cases social media is not the only cause of concern. There is a social breakdown and disturbing culture of who is placed on a pedestal and protected regardless of their behaviour. Something both these communities will have to address especially now their towns have been thrust into the global spotlight.
So should social media also be held accountable for the Steubenville video being uploaded in the first place? The survivor was unconscious and heavily intoxicated at the time, with no memory of what had happened. There were witnesses who chose to remain quiet. The other piece of evidence which none of those involved could deny was on YouTube. That video showed the victim, the rapists and the face of their friend who found it all too hilarious.
We have the Steubenville cases where an investigation took place and those involved were charged because there was evidence a crime had been committed with the perpetrators on show and identifiable. The video alone did not lead to the conviction but no doubt will have contributed.
Users sharing data documenting a violent act, abuse of others is not isolated to the USA. In January 2013 a video of a girl punching a boy much bigger than herself was filmed and uploaded, the only reason the boy involved did not hit back was because he said himself in the video that he did not hit girls. The police and school became involved. Due to the negative and in some cases threatening messages the girls family received in response to the video forced them to go into hiding. Though the act was criminal and wrong, was it right for user’s to behave this way?
In both incidents the main culprits had nowhere to hide, their faces were out there on the internet to be identified.
In the examples I have used the users’ of social media in my opinion have crossed legal and moral boundaries that are and have become harmful to others. Those involved showed no fear, they were not concerned about concealing their identity and hiding behind a profile. Their only concern was the fact they got caught.This says to me that users are developing a level of arrogance, thinking that out of a billion users sharing information what are the odds of their video, their pictures, their messages from going viral and becoming a global focal point? Bet the Steubenville trio (I’m including their hyena friend) didn’t think they would get caught and receive a different kind of attention?
It does make you think how many other videos like these are out there, how many other survivors have suffered and are still suffering in silence?
Is the damage already done with no way back?
So many questions with not enough answers.