Technology is unavoidable no matter what your opinion of it is.
On one hand the amount of tasks we’re able to complete with the help of technology has vastly increased. Today it’s hard to imagine a world without having an alarm on your phone, the ability to stream television through your smart device or an app for listening to music.
Online data is shared at such a fast rate that even the news channels can’t keep up. Print newspaper is fast becoming obsolete. Even online apps and news sources such as Sky or BBC are behind in delivering breaking news stories. The first platform to break the news of a public death or a terrorist attack is Twitter.
As technology rises the contact we have with one another decreases. We may ‘like’ something online but it’s not the same as ‘liking’ something in real life; though it may feel the same. A virtual hug is still virtual. Human beings have a desire and a need for physical contact.
The removal of physical contact also removes basic human attributes such as empathy, sensitivity and kindness. People say things to each other online that they would never dream of saying in real life; the security of being behind a screen eliminates all inhibitions that filter a person’s thoughts. The lines by which social etiquette is defined are blurred.
At the same time, human beings have a need for their personality, decisions and lifestyle to be approved of. Checking comments on your various social media profiles is addictive because it taps into our innate human longing to be liked. So telling someone to simply turn off their device or computer isn’t necessarily going to solve the problem of the technologically addicted.
The ability to display our entire lives online comes with obvious drawbacks. Humans make mistakes. Ordinarily mistakes are forgotten about, you learn from them and move on. A mistake made online is permanent. It can ruin lives. People don’t forgive or forget.
In 2015, PR worker Justine Sacco tweeted: ‘Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!’ to her 170 followers before she got on an 11 hour flight from London to Cape Town. She later explained that the tweet was intended to highlight white privilege. She probably didn’t think it mattered what the tweet meant since it was likely to be seen by less than 100 people.
When she landed in Cape Town she switched on her phone to manic texts from friends and family. She was the number one worldwide trend on twitter. Her tweet had gone viral. Thousands of people were tweeting their outrage, she received death threats, her name was plastered all over Buzzfeed, Google and Facebook. It doesn’t take much for trolls to jump on board and send death threats however it wasn’t just trolls who got involved; normal, everyday, caring people got behind their keyboards and added nails to this woman’s coffin.
We’ve created a society where we can permanently destroy a person over one mistake. Justine was immediately fired, she lost friends and she was unable to date.
Her life was, and still is, ruined.
Whenever she applies for a job, her potential employer only has to google the name ‘Justine Sacco’ to see her mistake laid out on the front page of Google – which will remain there forever.
What she said was wrong. But instead of using Twitter and the internet to develop understandings of our different cultures, to educate and to inform, we use it to condemn and destroy anyone who makes a stupid mistake or doesn’t conform to our guidelines.
This judgmental society is bigger than any one person or group of people. Nobody is above it. It has the capacity to permanently destroy anyone. How long will it be before you get caught up in the condemnation vacuum you’ve helped to create?