What happens when you prick someone and they don’t bleed? You’ve got an open, gaping wound. One that stays that way. Doesn’t matter if you slash them with a knife or a sword.
That’s kind of how the exposure of violence works in social media. Along with everything else. The news cycle is like a Ford assembly line, churning out headlines and videos at an impossible speed, giving us the phenomenon we now know as digital media.
What’s the effect of all these racing words and images: information overload. There are two ways to deal with that: either stop to read every single relevant thing, notwithstanding Buzzfeed, or else filter by tuning out. Result: everything becomes the same.
Tragedy seems like the new trend: its constantly being thrown in our faces. And it’s much more up close and personal: on our phones and computer screens. A recent article I read labeled the viral trend of violence, specifically police violence against African Americans, as the new porn. When a summary execution occurs, our first instinct is to film it and put it online. Then, we share it about a million times.
But nothing seems to happen. Except for exposure, time and time again. Media also reflects the polarization of our climate, racially, religiously, and and politically. We see racist rants on Twitter, racist videos, and what’s our response: publicity. Endless publicity. The worst things in news have always gotten the most attention, but now that attention is amplified by a factor of five hundred. It’s on every wall, from Facebook to Twitter.
Why? Because, awareness. Taking the worst elements of humanity and making them entertainment will somehow fix them in the wrong run. But, guess what: nothing’s changed. The more you go online and say something horrible, the more publicity you get. Note, all the recent videos of Trump supporters screaming at immigrants. Why is this stuff being passed around like a Star Wars trailer. Why are black girls being beaten up and black boys being shot something that everyone can talk about at work like it’s Sunday Night Football?
Because people are becoming desensitized. What was once outrage is now “this just in”. Videos of terrorist bombings, mass shootings, and public, “live-stream” executions are pretty much just a “same shit, different day” story now. Because we’ve been constantly assaulted by them.
Once that happens, the violence is easier to disregard. It’s just tiresome, annoying, like a fly on a windshield. Pretty soon we swipe it away. Or else continue with the barrage by sharing and re-posting.
I’m personally at the point right now where I don’t even like scrolling through my Facebook wall or CNN app: any egregious behavior, especially by our president, is front and center. Sometimes I just want to switch it off. Mass shooting? Click away. Why, because we’re not going to do anything about it. Awareness is overrated when it’s propagated through a digital outlet that suffers form severe attention deficit disorder. No one’s going to stay on the issue for long: they’re just going to put in their five cents of comments and then move on to the next headline.
Awareness of a problem sadly almost means nothing nowadays. Everyone’s aware. And, as a result, the culture of filming and live-streaming despicable human behavior has increased, rather than decreased. I might as well say that, as a black person, I’ve become immune to the “n-word”, having seen Twitter rants and viral videos plastered all over my feed. I’m tired of binge-watching police shootings, so I just don’t anymore. Continuing to do so will either make me paranoid, or completely unfazed by the fact that I have a greater chance than the average person of being seen as “threatening” to law enforcement.
Everything loses its initial effect, after a while, once only “awareness” becomes the solution. It’s a sad fact, but a true one: people lose their capacity to care. How tragic is it to see an act of violence on social media? After the nineteenth or twentieth time, you just accept it as a fact of life. Ergo, “meh….that sucks…but same shit, different day”. The same goes for all these new videos surfacing of Trump supporters harassing immigrant families. Or of the man himself decrying someone over Twitter.
Shitty human behavior? What else is new. Where it should elicit change, it only elicits a yawn now. The result of bringing out the worst: the worst continues. People feel emboldened now to go on social media and make racist threats and carry out acts of violence. Why: because they have an audience. That audience is us. Whether we realize it or not, we’re boosting their ratings.
After the horrible live-streamed video surfaced of the Cleveland man getting shot on camera, I kept wondering “why is this online?” Why do people need to be watching and sharing this? Friends on my Facebook wall kept commenting on how terrible the video was. My question: why are you watching it, in the first place? Why are so many people filming fights and public assaults? If it’s that bad, stop re-posting it. Please. Some videos, like the police shootings of unarmed youth, helped to expose certain things that needed to come out. Even if they’ve now fallen into the same old “same shit, different day” cycle. But other things don’t need to be seen. A video of a mentally disabled boy being tortured doesn’t need to be shown to your friends, or a live-streamed execution. And I’m not just talking about the sick people who post it: I’m talking about the people who re-post it, and spread it all over the internet. It really is a lack of respect for someone’s dignity. And it’s no wonder that stuff like that makes us desensitized.
Making despicable things up close and personal can obviously “spread awareness” of what goes on in society. But too close and personal, day in and day out, stunts the effect. It turns a serious problem into an “inconvenient” distraction. And it gives publicity to the people who actually want to promote this stuff: terrorists, white supremacists, etc. When “awareness” doesn’t reach a solution, the problem becomes “normal”. It becomes a movie we’ve all seen too many times that just keeps rewinding and playing.
I’m not really horrified by anything that happens in the news now. I come to expect it. And I expect it to be everywhere on my Facebook wall, not in a way that’s telling me to fix a societal problem, but just begging me to watch it. And share. And there’s too much of it to keep track of, because once one bad thing happens, another takes its place. So, you more or less just sit back and wait for the chaos to slow down. While paying attention to something else.