I actually got my inspiration for this blog post from an episode of Black Mirror called "Hated In The Nation", which I strongly recommend that every user of social media watches. If you want to check out the episode it's Season 3 Episode 6. The episode starts with the murder of Jo Powers, a journalist (who appears to be based on Katie Hopkins) deliberately writes articles with inflammatory views in order garner outrage and gain publicity for her articles. Her recent article results in her getting a lot of abuse online making her the most targeted person with #Deathto hashtag as #DeathtoJoPowers trend. Later that same day Jo Powers is found dead in her apartment. The #DeathTo hashtag is part of “ The Game of Consequences” in the game the person that is subject to the most "#DeathTo" tweets will be killed. (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!!) The biggest twist of the episode was that the real target of “The Game of Consequences” was actually the users of the hashtag who all end up being killed.
I was very conflicted after watching the episode because I began to wonder how much backlash people deserved to subjected to for having vile views or doing horrible things after all aren’t they just getting back the energy they're putting out? On the other hand I thought about what actually constitutes as being offensive because what is offensive to me, might not be offensive to someone else. I think social media has made people forget how powerful/hurtful the things they say can be to an extent because they don’t have to see the direct consequences of their actions on people. I mean I do believe that people should suffer the consequences of their actions but the problem is on social media the reaction can be a lot worse than the action.
What I found scariest about the episode was how realistic because people are really subjected to waves of abuse on social media. People can receive abuse for anything like political views, this evident in the case of Diane Abbott (Britains first black female Member of Parliament), who has been subjected to a lot of abuse since the beginning of her career, but social media seems to have made it easier for trolls to target Diane, resulting in her receiving “ten times more abuse than any other individual MP in the six weeks before the June 8 vote.”
“Dragging” is a colloquial term for harsh insults during an argument. I think dragging has definitely become a huge part of social media, it’s even one of the reasons some people log in.
I think my first time really witnessing “dragging culture” was in 2011 when a popular singer (at the time) called Keri Hilson refused to hold a magazine with Beyoncé’s picture on the cover at the soul train awards. This action resulted in Keri receiving years of abuse including death threats from Beyoncé’s fan base the Beyhive, some even argue that this is what ruined her music career. In a recent interview, she revealed that all the abuse she received caused her to “hit rock bottom”.
The episode also got me thinking about clickbait articles and generally just people who use social media as a platform satisfy their need for attention. Using Jo Powers as an example in the episode she disrespected a disabled activist who committed suicide, but watching Jo it was very clear that she didn’t actually believe anything she wrote she just wanted to profit off the public’s outrage by creating an offensive clickbait piece. Which is tactic used by a lot of people nowadays, even though I do think offensive and harmful views should be challenged, in cases where somebody has deliberately sought out to offend people it is more effective to just ignore them as opposed to sending lots of abuse resulting in them getting more publicity and allowing them to profit off your outrage. Another thing the episode got me thinking was why do people care so much about the view of strangers? Why do social media users allow the same people and publications to rile them up and profit off their anger?
Another I realised is sometimes dragging culture and fake news can go hand in hand sometimes. An example that sticks out to me is the case Kenneka Jenkins an 19-year-old girl who was found dead in the freezer of a hotel where she attended a party. The internet was flooded with people speculating what had happened to Kenneka the most popular theory was that she had been set up to be gang-raped by her friends and was murdered. People assumed that her body had been dumped in the freezer by her friends trying to cover up what they did. People began to analyse video’s posted that night of the party on social media claiming they could hear Kenneka in the background pleading for help. The names, pictures and social media accounts of her friends were posted around the internet as people accused them of being responsible for Kenneka’s death. Many people even accused the police of not doing enough to solve Kenneka’s case. I’m not going to lie I was one of them after reading all the conspiracy theories I began to wonder why nothing was being done. Surveillance footage from that night is released showing Kenneka stumbling around the hotel and eventually going into the freezer. Kenneka’s death ruled as being was accidental and caused by hypothermia from exposure to cold, with alcohol intoxication, and the presence of a prescription drug used for treating migraines and epilepsy, listed as significant contributing factors. The tragic case of Kenneka Jenkins reminded of a phrase I hear Charlamagne Tha God say regularly: “Nobody cares about the truth when the lie is more entertaining.” In this case this statement seemed to true I didn’t see anybody who posted incorrect things about the circumstances surrounding Kenneka’s death even apologise.
Media personalities like Charlamagne Tha God have become very critical of social media and “dragging culture”. Charlamagne even stated he had to come off Twitter for a while because of all the negativity that was on the site. Prior to hearing, Charlamagne say this I deleted my Twitter account for a while for this same reason.
I do enjoy social media using social media a lot but “Hated In The Nation” made me realise how it has normalised a lot of nasty behaviour.