When social media is used as a platform to criticize and judge others, it easily damages and leaves a scar on people’s social life in the physical world, according to BYU-Hawaii students and faculty.
Jenny Velasco, a freshman from the Philippines studying political science, said she was involved in a private group chat that led to gossiping about a fellow BYUH student. The conversation was later posted on Facebook, which led to heated public comments.
Velasco explained, “It started with only 10 of us in a private group chat making fun of one student. Around a month later, after we all forgot about it, the girl that we made fun of found out about our conversation. She took a screenshot on her phone and posted it on both the Filipino chapter as well as her personal Facebook page.”
According to Velasco, people commented to criticize her and her friends’ behaviour. The comments referred to them as “worms” and “dogs” and said they had a “lack of education and manners.” She said, “I felt so embarrassed for being publicly humiliated because there were so many people involved including work managers who I think highly of. I felt like I [was] a bad person.” Some people tagged managers from the girls’ places of employment.
Later on, the parties publicly apologized on Facebook through comments on the post. They said they apologized in person. The girl said she took down the post until after she received apologies.
In response to hearing about this incident, BYUH students and a communications professor said there is a need to treat what we type with the same regards of how we talk.
Dr. Daniel Stout, who studies social media, commented on how millennials tend to think social media is interpersonal, even though the content “is often easily disseminated to hundreds and thousands.”
Stout suggested it’s the responsibility of all individuals to build a positive platform on social media. “It’s important for the internet users to condemn this kind of criticism. Whenever we see gossip and criticism of one another, we need to discourage it–to chastise the person for posting derogatory messages. We all have to do our part.”
David Aldrich, a sophomore from Georgia studying peacebuilding, also commented, “Social media makes it easier for people to engage in hate speech. I don’t think we should react to hate speech with more hate speech. The internet made people think that they can say whatever they want. It comes from a lack of understanding and unwillingness to know about each other.”
Sam Clayton, a sophomore from Colorado studying biology, said he feels social media “gets dramatic.” He said, “For example, on the Buy and Sell [Facebook] page, people fight about things that are silly. Don’t go back and forth and try to put someone down. We have no place to judge.”
Comparing social media comments to daily conversations, Stout said, “It starts with each individual of making the effort to contribute to a positive exchange on the internet. It is applying the same basic communication principles that have to do with the normal conversation–encouraging others in discussions, respecting others’ opinions, and never communicating in a way that harms others.”
Velasco expressed, “Gossiping could lead to huge consequences. It’s like a ripple. I want others to be aware. It was a humbling experience for me. I apologized to her publicly and personally. I learned to seek help from Heavenly Father instead of other people. The more I talked to Him, the more comfort I received.” She said she has learned to be conscious with online conversations, to humbly apologize, and to admit her wrongs.