Think Before You Post: A Note on Social Media in Times of Tragedy

Guest Post by: Erin Acklin, student

On the night of November 13th, 2015, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks occurred in Paris, France. The attacks took the form of mass shootings and suicide bombings, and occurred inside of the Bataclan theatre, inside of restaurants, and outside of the Stade de France in Saint-Denis. The attacks killed 129 people and left at least 80 others in critical condition. In the aftermath of the attack, social media was abuzz and news outlets were constantly bringing forward new information. The world received the basic news updates but much more. Personal stories, motivational posts, grievances, and prayers. Facebook introduced a photo filter of the French flag for profile pictures. However we also saw posts of fear and anger, messages of hate. In the wake of the attacks came a whirlwind of social media. And with all this social media buzzing, it is important to ask ourselves about our motivations to post in a time like this.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 10.11.59 PMCitizen journalism has become almost a main source of news. We look to Facebook and Twitter to get caught up on common day occurrences. Social media harnesses a lot of power. These past events have shown us the ability social media has to spread either hope or fear in just the click of a button. I don’t deny that social media can change the minds of those who view it, or that it is a place where ideas grow. However, what tangible benefits does Paris receive from our Facebook posts and hashtags? Social media has given us a platform to shout our encouragements and declare our support from a safe distance with no real obligations.

According to an article on International Business Times, things like the Facebook profile picture filter breed what researchers call “slacktivism.” These online support trends allow social media users to declare their support without actually having to commit to the cause. People can associate with a cause without truly being involved in it. Much more than that, researchers have found that these sorts of social media support trends have actually had negative affects on garnering actual support, specifically financial support. Because people are able to visually and publicly display that they give their support, they don’t feel they have to take any real action. They are already associated with the event.

So, is this ethical? Surely people have the right idea when they post to social media with support or update their profile picture with the colors of France. I would argue that people are perhaps just not fully thinking about their actions. But to build from that, I think that people have an ethical obligation to start thinking about the ways that they use social media. In times of terror, verbal support can have great impact, but we can do so much more. Surely we can give more to Paris than a Facebook filter.

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Thoughts on the University of Missouri

Guest post by: Cameron Harris, Articulate Cultural Enthusiast

When I first heard about racial tensions rising on the campus of University of Missouri, my first response was well of course you’re in Missouri. After getting by that I began to read more into the story about life for minority students on the campus. I must say they don’t sound different from my experience at Marquette or the experiences of other minority students at predominately white institutions. Things happen on a day-to-day basis sometimes subtle, sometimes overt but the point is people’s complaints go largely ignored because they make up such a small percent of the university’s population. My roommates (also minorities) and I often discuss whether it is it an institution’s job to please less than 10 percent of the population and even sometimes smaller than that.? According to Mill’s utilitarianism it is supposed to be the greatest good for the greatest number of people, therefore predominately white institutions should be catering to that demographic. I think where Mill misses the mark is in regards to how two students with the same major, living on the same campus will have completely different experiences based on the color of their skin. The person of color is probably more likely to have bad things to say about their experience.

Whenever I read articles that speak to race specifically on a college campus it strikes a chord with me. I wasn’t angered when reading this story but rather happy that things like this have woven their way into public discourse and things began to change rather rapidly. So many times peoples’ cries for help go unheard. I also question the role of economics in Wolfe’s decision to resign because it came the day after the football team said they would not play. Something tells me he was told to step down because the school needed those players to play. In any case he did step down and things seem to be moving in the right direction.

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 10.39.35 PMNow I do not know if anything will change at the University of Missouri because we live in a segregated society. When I arrived at Marquette University I was told by someone who lived on the floor that I was the first black person that they had ever had a conversation with. This pointed out to me that Universities are given the tough task of bringing together thousands of people with different backgrounds to come together and function. This of course does not excuse prejudice at all, but what do people expect to happen? A college campus is going to reflect the society that it resides in and that is a place that has a history filled with racism, prejudice and hate.