Why blame social networks for the behavior of its toxic users? We let people spread hate off the hook

Social media platforms have become the latest bad guys in the headlines. I find it alarming that we are looking to vilify the sites rather than the users who abuse them.

As soon as we start accusing the platforms of wrongdoing, we allow the people who spread the toxicity to just put up their hands and say, ‘the media made me do it’. It’s an old defense, and I think it’s making a comeback. People focus too much on the sites themselves and not enough on the people who use them. After all, aren’t we responsible for our actions? This must include our online actions.

There should be consequences for those who spread hatred or use their social media accounts to rape others. News likes to focus on Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp; my fear is that we lose attention that Real people are always behind these accounts.

“Facebook knows Instagram is toxic to teenage girls” read a september headline in the Wall Street Journal. Uh! I want the headlines to focus on what was posted and by whom.

Magazine covers over the years have also been toxic to teenage girls, right? Where was the audience when the 80-pound models promoted lifestyle tips to young girls on their covers? The editors didn’t know it would be harmful to teens – seriously?

We need to teach our young people about self-respect and self-confidence so that they have the tools to know when not to click and be able to navigate boring online content that might cause them pain. anxiety.

Our culture looks good with these images because we are in the age of social media and technology. Previously, magazines were blamed for things like articles on diets targeting young girls. But that was not an intrinsic flaw of magazines as a medium; it was due to the writers and editors producing that content. Why is our culture now so comfortable saying that social media is the cause? Let’s not forget that these posts still have authors and they too should be held accountable.

I am not saying that these platforms have no responsibility. They do, but by focusing the coverage on how Instagram itself is the culprit for damaged teen self-esteem, we take responsibility for users posting content that would make young people feel that way. After all, there were a lot of magazines that made me feel insecure as a teenager, but they stuck on the shelves.

We are in an age where responsibility must be a reality in the virtual world. We’ve been online for years now and spending even more time there due to the pandemic. The headlines that spin on social media provide an excuse to blame the real platforms, when in fact it is the users who make them toxic.

Marshall McLuhan said “the medium is the message”. Certainly the medium is important, but the medium should not be blamed. Let’s focus on who Send What a message.

Penny Mamais is a professor in the School of English and Liberal Studies at Seneca College.

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