Once again a social media fuelled incident has hit the headlines as a result of the #Slanegirl photos that bounced around Ireland and beyond from the Slane concert recently where the famous Detroit rapper, “the poet for a New Generation” Eminem was the headline act.
If you missed all the drama a young woman (newspaper reports claim she is 17) and an older guy were caught performing an inappropriate act in quite a public place at the gig. The incident was photographed by a bystander, pushed out on social media and before you could blink (or a hash tag was created) the photo went viral by people retweeting and sharing.
This 17 year old girl and the guy involved must now deal with the pressure of a huge media/public spotlight – too much for any young person to cope with.
At a media conference in the US in 2011 celebrity Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post, said that the popularity of Facebook, Twitter and websites like her online news site indicate that “self-expression has become the new entertainment.”
We can see in this scenario how Arianna was right at so many levels.
Once any incident occurs good or bad that has an “Oh My God, guess what I’ve just seen” element to it, you are guaranteed that it will travel like wildfire in our New Generation.
Pretty much all of us are now self publishers and with our own platforms and audiences we are armed with powerful devices that can bring something to life within seconds.
As usual after this incident social media got a huge amount of flack and all sorts of issues have been raised- the experts from the legal professions, the various authorities, organisations and social media were wheeled onto TV and radio shows to give their many and varied opinions.
Both Twitter and Facebook did react and pulled the posts down as soon as it became clear how distasteful the content and the act of sharing and commenting was. Unfortunately the damage was pretty much done at this stage – these pictures are still widely available online.
The police are conducting an investigation – is the young man in trouble, what about the person who took the photo and what about those who passed it quickly along the chain on the various social media channels?
Who was to blame and how can they be punished?
We will huff and puff but ultimately very little will happen – it’s virtually impossible to shut down the self publishing machine.
Besides demonstrating once again how hurtful and irresponsible people can be, the Slane incident is very frustrating for a number of reasons:
The Social Media is to blame argument
Social media is powerful and hugely beneficial but it is mostly in the media spotlight when something “bad” has happened.
You never really hear in the media about long lost relatives connecting through twitter, businesses thriving by using the platforms cleverly, people publicising causes and injustices or tricky problems being solved online – it is mostly the negative, controversial stuff that we hear about.
We find ourselves blaming the social media platforms and not the users – twitter, facebook and all the other platforms are only as good or as bad as the people using them.
The platforms do have a big responsibility to respond quickly to sensitive issues and have methods of detecting and dealing with inappropriate content. At least accounts were pulled down on this occasion, which will send a strong message to all users who use social media as a core part of their lives.
This sort of misfortunate incident is not unique and has been happening as far back as I can remember but the difference is that now we can share it easily so the impact and consequences are much larger, which brings me to the point of New World Rules.
1. We need to be extra vigilant in our new world and be extra careful with any incident in public
2. Accept that the incident will be recorded as nearly everyone watching anything has a phone capable of taking a good photo or even filming the activity
3. Assume automatically that the photo or footage will be shared on one or more social media platforms complete with descriptions and hash tags instantly and with the capability of identifying the individuals in the picture.
4. Assume if the incident is an “Oh My God, guess what I’ve just seen” then it will be shared online and will quickly spread virally
5. Posting or sharing anything online leaves a digital footprint back to you and more importantly gives an instant impression to others about you as a person, good or bad. This impression tends to stay with you.
We can look to the authorities to legislate for such instances and we can work with the social media platforms to introduce better controls and quicker ways to respond but the real job lies with us, the users.
We, the New Generation need to understand the powerful technology that is at our fingertips and we need to use it responsibly. That simple photo, status update, share or retweet can cause untold damage to someone’s life.
We need to think about our own values and the values we pass onto our children – this applies equally offline and online. There is no difference.
We must take our own personal responsibility – if we see something not right when we are out or online we should react and play our part and instead of saying “Oh My God, guess what I’ve just seen” we should be saying “It’s not right ….stop” and report it immediately.
The sooner we realise that old values need to be applied to our New Generation the better.