Escaping the Social Media Mob


November 4, 2019 1:42PM

These days on social media, it seems virtually impossible to say anything without someone getting offended. Even the most lighthearted joke or innocent question can be turned into a cruel remark that leaves hundreds of people commenting.  There seem to be plenty of people on the Internet that seem to have no other goal than being as rude as possible. But is every little thing really worth getting upset over? And by getting upset and offended by everything, have we lost the ability to have real discussions on social media?

In 2016, the makeup brand Urban Decay released a line of eyeliners called “Razor Sharp”. They posted an Instagram picture showing off the colors by swatching them on a woman’s wrist. While this is a common practice in the makeup industry, people began drawing a connection that the name of their eyeliner, combined with the picture, could be a trigger for self-harm. 

While this was certainly a PR disaster—which should have been caught well beforehand—triggering people was obviously not the intent of the brand. Some commenters handled the situation calmly, informing Urban Decay of how their picture could be seen as insensitive. Others, however, seemed to take the incident personally, becoming horribly offended at the photo. These people did not stop to think that no brand with any ounce of sanity would create a post promoting self-harm (and by extension hurting sales). 

Yes, the issue definitely needed to be addressed. While some people are clearly trolls, I would argue that some if not most people on the Internet aren’t trying to be offensive. In this case, rather than opening up an honest and rational discussion about what could be triggering to people who struggle with self-harm, the issue got blown out of proportion, creating an enemy where there wasn’t one. 

This is just one of the countless examples of how being easily offended not only created more drama than necessary but also overshadowed a necessary conversation. How are we supposed to talk about topics that matter when everyone will just get angry with us for mentioning them at all? 

This issue is especially rampant in the political sphere. Nowhere else on social media will you find the level of angry insult-throwing than when someone decides to bravely post something about their political opinions online. Rather than hearing someone out, we’ve learned to tune them out completely when they present an opinion that differs from ours. How can we expect our country’s leaders to solve hot-button issues when we can’t even talk about them without needing anger management classes?

Social media users need to learn how to pick our battles. Rather than yelling through our screens at every accidental offense, we need to stop and consider the actual issue at hand. Sure, comment when necessary. But for the love of all that is good in the world, please leave the all-caps-writing at home. It’s not hard to see something online that seems insensitive or crude. But we have a choice in these situations—we can get offended, or we can get informed.