Social media serves as catalyst for hateful thoughts

By Jonathan Edmondson
Opinions Assistant

The announcement was made via social media that Chris Christie would be attending the groundbreaking ceremony of Campus Town on Friday, Sept. 27. Immediately following, Twitter and Facebook burst into a frenzy of passionate opinions.

Many were outraged, citing that the governor should spend more time trying to fix failing schools in Trenton than attending a collegiate event. Others immediately shared their blunt political views and started to organize protests via Facebook events. There was support on both ends, some appraising this behavior and others citing it as naïve. As a result, a mini social media war erupted.

I watched all of this unfold from my computer screen, tracing the activity from the moment the announcement was made to the day before the ceremony. I watched as protest events were made, then ultimately taken off of Facebook. I saw comments appear and disappear, as owners tried to take back their words.

At the exact same time that our College’s social back-and-forth was unfolding, The New York Times released a collection of opinion pieces about social media’s effect on our generation. Comedian Bill Maher went off on a rant during a recent episode of his talk show, exposing all the hatred found on Twitter. What both of these sources had in common was the idea that our generation has evolved into narcissists who hide behind computer screens.

Whether Chris Christie should come to campus is simply a matter of opinion. Whether our generation has turned into narcissists due to social media can be argued through statistical analysis and personal opinion. I am not here to discuss either of those vicious debates, but instead to present the larger issue at hand. Social media has changed the way we interact and express our opinions, and there is simply no arguing that.

When someone posts on Facebook or writes on Twitter, sometimes they would not actually say those words out loud. The computer screen is a perfect barrier for anonymous attackers and shy, timid opinionates.

Maher posed the question, “Why has hate become a national pastime?”

I could not agree more with his inquirer. Were we always this hateful, or does social media serve as a vicious catalyst for negative thoughts?

I believe the latter is the correct answer. People, especially our generation, are far more likely to voice unpopular opinions from the safety of their laptops than to citizens on the street corner. When some people post on social media, they believe whatever they say is OK because it is just on the Internet. If confrontation ensues, they can simply delete the comment and pretend it never happened.

But there is no delete button in real life. You can erase what you say online, but not before dozens of people read your words. If you are going to post a strong, controversial statement, you need to be able to stand behind it. If you would not say it out loud, why would you say it on the computer? Words are words regardless of if they are typed or spoken. People do not simply forget.

Just because you can does not mean you should. Clearly there are various sides to every controversial event, and Chris Christie’s presence at the groundbreaking ceremony has no exception. There is, however, a time and a place to express those opinions. Splashing hateful, vicious comments across social media outlets is not always the answer. Comments need to be carefully examined before becoming public. As many students pointed out in opposition to political protest propositions, this was not a political event. The governor was not campaigning. Therefore, the question must be addressed: Was this really the time and place for this?

Opinions are important. They allow for heated debates and passionate conversations, both of which are popular pastimes of college students. However, these opinions need to be carefully thought out and supported before being showcased for the whole world to see. If you disagree with something, that is perfectly fine. But is it necessary to post hate? What will degrading someone else’s opinion really do for you?

Social media provides an outlet for sharing and discussing, but posting hateful comments is not the answer. Everyone needs to be more aware of when, where and how they are saying things. Just because you believe in it does not mean others do, too. And if you are really willing to make that vicious comment, you need to be ready for the backlash.

After the groundbreaking ceremony, the social media outlets cooled down, but only until the next controversial event pops up. The point of this article is not to take sides on any particular debate or chastise one group versus another. Instead, it is to remind everyone of the degree in which words can be hurtful, even if they are digital. If you would not say it in person, do not say it online. Some things are better left unsaid, no matter what the outlet.