Jackie Griffin died at the scene of a horrific accident on the M50 on January 24th. Everyone reacts to death differently. Your immediate reaction might be to think of her grieving family and friends, to send flowers, condolences or perhaps to convey your deepest sympathies via a Facebook post or tweet.
However, everyone’s intentions were not as pure. Someone decided to share gruesome pictures and videos taken at the immediate aftermath of the fatal crash, completely dehumanising a fellow human being, a former friend, a young girl in a class picture hanging on somebody’s wall.
The fact that someone’s immediate concern was sharing this content on social media, brings our attention to the darkest side of human nature. It reminds us that there is always going to be a minority on this planet that will make us wonder if there is any sense of morality left in this world we live in, or is the line between right and wrong blurred between WhatsApp group chats and snap streaks.
As a race we have always been inclined towards the gruesome, the shocking, the macabre side of nature. Blood curdling tales that give us a sense of catharsis, a feeling of “well, at least it didn’t happen to me”. We are enthralled by horror stories that occur far away from our front doors and bear no burden on the people that we could not live without.
We spend hours devouring detailed series about easily avoided child abductions and ‘sexy’ mass murderers. Television has a watershed. Reporters have guidelines set down by the law. Social Media has little to no boundaries due to it being a relatively new addition to our day to day lives. An ISIS beheading can be viewed by a young boy in Bray. Vicious rumours and career damning accusations can be shared in meme format.
Adults can or should be able to tell the difference between what is right and wrong and strive to only share appropriate content without the threat of the law or the offer of a carrot but it is the youngest members of our society that are the most susceptible to the dark side of social media. The security of friendship and social acceptance can often cause people to turn a blind eye to something they know is morally wrong- as was the case with a sixth-year student that would prefer not to be named.
“I was once invited to this private story by some anonymous person made on Snapchat and they would get a requested name from someone and post what they thought about that person,” the student said.
“My name was mentioned a few times and they would say really mean things. I could’ve left it, but I was so obsessed with what people thought of me,” they added.
We post things without even thinking about them. We share videos of our friend drunkenly describing their undying love for Dermot Bannon without batting an eyelid. Prospective Medicine student Jason Dowling explains that this can quickly step inside the realm of being morally wrong.
“If somebody posts a dodgy photo from a night out it can be quite detrimental,” said Dowling.
Laws need to be introduced to catch up with changing times. As a society, we need to draw a line between what is entertainment and what is evil. While the vast majority of people do not need a carrot or a stick, the promise of a heaven or a threat of hell there will always be a minority that will push boundaries in the selfish hope of viral fame. These people will only be deterred by concrete rules and penalties.
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