Social media has manipulated us to the point where we now believe it’s acceptable to scrutinise, criticise and judge others publicly. Before the advent of the Internet, we only had up-to-date information about what our immediate circle of friends, family and colleagues were doing, whereas these days we can view the rest of the world with a single click of our mouse.
And it’s given some people a dangerous power that they obviously find hard to control.
Now I am the biggest advocate of dry humor, (and not such a fan of the over-political correctness that is trying to erase it), yet as Giuliana Rancic admitted this week in her public apology to the actress Zendaya, there has to be a ‘line.’
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Giuliana Rancic, she is one of the presenters of the American television series, Fashion Police, which provides a humorously acerbic look at celebrity fashion. This week Giuliana was singled out for what were deemed to be derogatory, racist comments that she made about Zendaya’s dreadlocks at a recent awards show, which stereotyped black people as drug users.
I was watching the program at the time and I admit that I missed how those comments would be perceived too, because the appeal of the format of Fashion Police (and it’s not for the easily offended) is that it is a sharp-shooting, fast-talking, often ad-libbed show which, (in spite of covering what some might see as very shallow subject matter), is a mental workout. Giuliana’s biting quips were off the cuff, and much like Benedict Cumberbatch’s recent comments about ‘colour’, I feel certain, were not meant to offend.
‘Humor’ is subjective, after all.
But she was castigated for her mistake, and rightly so, because her words caused offence.
And because we are growing tired of the fact that just because social media has given us this platform where we can be righteously opinionated, it has become acceptable behaviour to take a pop at anyone, without consideration for their feelings or the impact it will have on their family or mental well-being.
Social media appears to have extinguished empathy.
We witness this brazen attitude daily in the comments published by ‘trolls’ on networks such as Twitter, whether it is in #tweetsaboutwomen (@miafreedman: shut up Mia Freedman or else I’ll shut you up with my fist) or malicious comments about Madonna’s recent fall at the Brits, where little consideration was given to the fact that the woman might have actually hurt herself.
That reaction to Madonna’s fall made me really think about how we judge the choices of others.
Because we are all guilty of judging others – only most of us don’t do it quite as publicly.
We all look at photos on Facebook and think bad thoughts sometimes, such as:
She’s put on a bit of weight…
Can they really afford private education?…
Should she be wearing that at her age?….
We all do it.
And that’s fine, it’s human nature to analyse and compare as long as those inner voices are kept private.
What’s not acceptable is when those malicious thoughts are aired in a public forum, are often misinformed and then posted without consideration for the suffering that they might exacerbate.
That’s called ‘bullying’.
Conjecture about the condition of Whitney Houston’s daughter has been another recent horrific example of such trolling.
This level of vitriol can only emanate from envy or fear. What other reason can there be for the public decimation of a person you know nothing about, really? Yes, famous people have chosen to work in the public eye and should be accountable for their performance in the workplace, just as we all are. But their private life should remain private, because without really knowing what goes on behind their closed doors, what right do we have to judge their choices?
There has to be a line.