In Week 11’s class, we discussed online comments and online shaming, featuring Justine Sacco’s twitter post. It read: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” It went outrageous on the internet after her flight took off to Cape Town.
When we comment online, we usually don’t think much before posting. Unlike person-to-person dialogues, it doesn’t require immediate reaction. You can think about the perfect response or how to defend. It is unfortunate for Justine that she doesn’t even have the chance to defend herself as she was on a flight when her post spread like fire on Twitter. Her life was torn immediately; she lost her job, online shamed by other users. People who retweeted barely know Justine in person, but they can ruin her life in just several seconds with a click on the internet. This is how powerful social media can be.
We are afraid to make comments in real life, worrying that it may hurt the person’s feeling, not knowing what to react to others’ criticisms. However, when you see other users posting similar comments like yours in the online community, you feel like your opinion is backed. You can also post anonymously which seems you don’t have to take that much responsibility. Therefore, netizens teamed up and created a hashtag – #HasJustineLandedYet and online shamed Justine’s reckless tweet.
I then start to reflect my online behaviour. I think I’ve never online shamed anyone because I rarely comment on any social media platform. I know how fast words can spread on the internet and I didn’t want to online shame anyone or be online shamed, so I’ve always been kind of passive when coming to online activities. I am afraid to voice out any opinion online because I’m afraid people against my stance would judge me. I think the online community would only be more harmonious if people can learn how to respect others’ opinions even if they’re against you. Also, online users should think twice before making a comment, the impact could be more viral than you think.