SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Gun violence in the United States seems to be the norm. The television news, the news on the radio, and the news we receive on our phones and computers is filled with almost daily real-life events about a lone gunman taking the lives of innocent people and then turning the gun on himself.
The violence is all encompassing. Pervasive. In the movies and television shows we watch. In the music we listen to and the books we read.
America loves a violent story and violent characters.
Some of the killers suffer from mental illness that give rise to the violence. Some of the givers of violence have suffered at the hands of violent family members or someone within their community. There are many reasons why people decide to inflict harm on others.
Earlier today, Peyton Gendron, the white man who was sentenced to life in prison for planning and carrying out the murder of 10 innocent Black people is a bit different. He supposedly learned how to “hate” Black people from racist conspiracy theories he learned about while on the Internet.
In a statement that Gendron made today while in court, he acknowledged that he shot and killed his victims because “they were Black.” He continued, “I believed what I read online and acted out of hate, and now I can’t take it back, but I wish I could, and I don’t want anyone to be inspired by me.”
The Internet and social media definitely have benefits and some positive aspects. However, should we now pose the question if social media is really worth it in long run.
The problems of social media are many. For those who grew up with social media, they are able to see anything, anytime they want. Jessica Holzbauer, a licensed clinical health worker at Huntsman Mental Health Institute said, “our ability to tolerate the distress of having to wait has been eroded.” Indeed, if you want to know something, all one has to do is “google it.”
We live in a world of instant gratification.
Social media and the Internet removed the barriers between the user and the audience. Once the barrier has been removed, impressionable minds have access to people, ideas, and images that they would not otherwise be exposed to.
A recent study by Facebook revealed the teen girls using Instagram have lower images of themselves.
As early as 2021, Facebook knew that teen-age girls using Instagram had lower self-images. They also knew that high use of Instagram could push a teen girl toward eating disorders.
Late last year, CBS News reported that 1,200 families would sue social media companies like Facebook, TikTok, SnapChat, and YouTube for harm done to their children’s mental health.
If social media companies are found negligent and responsible for knowingly doing harm to their users, was Gendron – who should be held responsible for the murder of 10 innocent people – also a victim of social media and the unfiltered messages he received via the Internet?
Some content provided by the Associated Press, CBS News, Google, and the University of Utah Health.