Remember when your parents would facetiously ask, “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” Well, that questions plays out every day on the internet, and its called Twitter.
In its brief history, Twitter’s created social change, grassroots movements, and awareness for global issues. It’s also where you can find terrorist activity, bullying, and the overall depths of human vitriol. You can catch up on sports, politics, and world news all while learning five new dick jokes during your morning coffee. Twitter is not a thing; it is merely a place to put and find things.
However, on occasion Twitter will buzz with activity on a single topic, and a window into the sheer madness of mob mentality emerges. Only in this case, the mobs actual mentality is on display. While this may be a powerful tool during social movements, it can also be the bridge all your friends jump off of.
Take Jian Ghomeshi for example. With mass confusion as to what was happening, the Jian Ghoshemi story could be told by its four phases on twitter: (1) Everyone has a right to their sexual preference, (2) That’s pretty messed up, (3) How many women?, and (4) F%$k that guy.
In your mind, this would be considered critical thinking. But since you posted on Twitter, you will only be remembered for your most ignorant and least informed tweets.
While the Ghoshemi phases can be excused because it was a slowly unfolding story, some Twitter movements just plain don’t make sense.
One recent example was #RespectForZayn, a hashtag bred from outrage over a joke told by Bill Maher about One Direction member Zayn Malik. After mocking Zayn’s adolescent fans over their fascination with the band, Maher then posted Zayn’s photo next to the Boston bomber’s and made a joke referencing how similar the two look. Twitter then exploded, defending Zayn’s religion and chastising Maher for calling him a terrorist, posting links to the video which clearly show Maher, in full context, not doing any of that. #RespectForZayn trended for almost 2 days, answering the question, “How far over your head did that joke go?”
Twitter outrage isn’t just boy band groupie related, though. Social media vigilantes, sometimes called “Hashtivists”, monitor Twitter for anything that could be offensive and draw attention to it. Hashtivists are believed to be a product of not being hugged enough as a child and listening to screamo music after age 25.
The most recent example of hastivist justice is the outrage over insensitive jokes posted by Trevor Noah years before being named Jon Stewart’s replacement on The Daily Show. After an explosion of hate and many Twitter users calling for the removal of Noah, the fervour began to settle as many people realized the Pandora’s box they were opening.
In a world where a picture of your dick can end your career and every meaningless thought you ever had is posted somewhere, it has becoming dangerously acceptable to judge people based on past immaturity. You’re not a 30-year-old engineer; you’re the 23-year-old who made an insensitive joke about Judaism. You’re not a teachers’ college grad, you’re the unhirable 18-year-old who posted half naked selfies.
The age of social media does not forgive, forget, or care if it’s wrong. We’ve all jumped off the bridge.