It is cliché in the social media world to “#hate”, “FML” and declare the death of everything…sometimes in a fire. Technology has delivered so many instruments with which to write with such as computers, smartphones, tablets, and arenas with which to express ourselves in, such as comment sections on news websites and social networks, we have begun to lose the ability to self-censor and communicate with true intent.
I’m guilty of this behavior, particularly during football season. I tend to retweet and “like” negative language directed toward rivals. However, abusing societal norms of the use of appropriate language is an increasingly darker, more distributing trend. It seems as a society we’ve lost any attachment to the power of words.
Justin Carter is a sad example of this detachment. Carter engaged in conversation with a friend on his Facebook Newsfeed about an online role-playing video game. Carter in an attempt to “one-up” his friend responded with “threats” of shooting up an elementary school. The comments were written 60 days after the Newtown Elementary tragedy.
His publicly viewable threats were probably just mindless banter between two friends; but a Canadian relative of the friend read this mindless language and alerted Texas authorities. You can read an account of the story at the Dallas Observer, but Carter now faces up to 10 years in prison.
Another inexcusable example of this disregard for the power of words came over the summer thanks to the Miami Dolphins. Player Jonathan Martin accused fellow teammate Richie Incognito of bullying and attributing to a declined level of mental health. The bullying came in the ways of threatening text messages and voicemail filled with racial slurs and derogatory references. It should be noted that this abusive language wasn’t used in one direction; both players used some pretty nasty language.
According to a recent British study, a racist comment is posted on Twitter every 9 seconds. In addition, the study found that more than 10,000 tweets are posted every day that could be considered offensive.
To say we are desensitized to the power that language has would be an understatement. We are left with an environment of poor judgment, bad choices and lack of understanding the power that our words have on each other. Just because you can write it, doesn’t mean you should.