I frequent several different blogs and read a lot of different articles. As a writer, that's how I "stay sharp" and keep abreast of the topics fresh on people's minds. One that I read recently didn't sit well with me. Now, I don't give press to other people's blogs, so I won't link the blog here, but the phrase that concerned me had to do with the "Twitter beatdown". For those who don't know, the Twitter beatdown occurred when one young woman, angry about what was said to her online, decided to go to the location of the young woman who said it and proceeded to assault her. We know that this happened, because it was taped and them disseminated to the masses via that bastion of humanity called World Star Hip-Hop. Side note: how are THE most ratchet (unflattering, in poor taste) of videos of primarily black people doing violent and foolish things linked to the culture of hip-hop? I will call out World Star Hip-Hop because of that social connection. Every time someone looks at me and stereotypes me as a black man, I can personally thank World Star Hip-Hop for continuing to perpetuate the most harmful of stereotypes. I bet if you checked George Zimmerman's browser history, you'd find World Star Hip-Hop.
But I digress. The blog in question implied that in the world we live in, a world of "social media", we can't "help but to see" things that should make us cringe and flinch. Here is where my problems with this statement begin. First, this implies that because we live in an information age, we no longer can control what we see? Is that so? I contend that it is NOT so. There are people who are as active in social media as anyone, if not more so active than the average, who didn't watch that video. You know why? Because we recognized the contents as being reprehensible. I didn't watch that video. And I refuse to watch it. Why would I willingly take part in this woman's crime? What type of voyeuristic thrill comes from watching a human being demolish another one? The spectacle of it all reminds of the Roman Colosseum where the masses gathered to watch criminals be torn limb from limb by wild beasts. This was at the height of the Roman empire, and some scholars believe it was this turn to the perverse, this ever growing lust for the spectacle of depravity that led to the eventual downfall of the Western Roman empire. Of course, that wasn't the only contributing factor, as I'm sure the ongoing assaults from the multiple Germanic tribes that later went on to form the countries of Europe as we know them today probably were a much larger consideration, but the idea here is that a society, at its apex, being drawn to the most violent of entertainments should cause us all to pause and reflect.
More importantly, the notion that we are beyond control because of being "plugged in" to social media reflects an ever growing trend to take our guilt and blame it on every external factor we can, as opposed to meeting it squarely on the grounds upon which it spawned, namely within ourselves. Whenever we watch videos of violence and share them with others, WE are enabling the future violent attackers. Whenever we laugh and point and most importantly, hand our attention over to those who seek it, WE are giving them the power that they so keenly crave. WE are responsible for the attention that WE give to others. No one else is. If someone sends me an email or a link and tells me to watch it, I, and I alone, am responsible for the decision I make to watch it. I can't shift the guilt or burden of my decisions onto someone else. It's my responsibility.
When are we going to start taking that responsibility seriously? Maybe never. But I can't speak for everyone else. All I can do is recognize my responsibility and face it as a responsible adult human being should. I hope we all can do the same.