I tried to totally avoid writing about, talking about or directing any attention to something that happened on the Internet -- ha, like it's a real place like a Panera Bread -- Monday. But, I basically get paid by the Internet, so, here I am.
After a message from the chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign alerted students that classes would continue as usual on Monday despite record low temperatures, some began sharing racist (the chancellor is Asian) and sexist (also a woman) tweets with an equally stupid hashtag. Naturally, a link on the Internet rounding up a few of them was born.
Note: I will not be sharing any part of them, here. Google it, if you're so inclined.
My coworkers and I saw it. We clicked on it. We turned red. But then we kind of didn't know exactly how to feel about it. What was the point of reading this? What is the point of sharing something like this? Where am I? What is the meaning of life?
Sorry, got carried away.
There's this constant struggle on social media and the Internet of what came first: the morally bankrupt tweet chicken or the Buzzfeed tweet roundup egg. Some say people need to be made aware that things like racism and sexism still exist and that the people who spout these epithets need to be taught a lesson and understand that their words have consequences. (Because that's worked so well in the past ... to tell a racist that he's an idiot?) But after doing this social media thing for a few years now, I'm quickly realizing that, yes, social media is incredibly powerful, but that it goes both ways.
Which is worse? The sentiments themselves, or the click-bait that encourages us to "Look at these racist and sexist tweets"?
A "Can you believe it?" post is arguably one of the most asinine things of the modern era. Can I believe people say horrible things? That racism and sexism still very much exist? Yes, yes, I can. The idea that spotlighting a group of seemingly societal blemishes with eggs for avatars amid a body of (hopefully) forward-thinking students is necessary to include in a recap of the day's events smells of BS. These things serve no newsworthy purpose and do nothing to move conversations forward. In this particular instance, the university has only commented to say that these students were young and immature, and though many students and alumni have expressed their distaste (via tweets), nothing further has happened. No protests (too cold, duh). No administrative action (because, kids these days). Those students tweeting slurs at the chancellor probably trudged to class Monday, complained to their teachers and got a swift kick in the ass that, hey, growing up sucks sometimes. That is it. This is not news.
So what will move the conversation forward? I don't have the answer for that. But I do recognize that there's a difference between pretending things like racism and sexism don't exist and choosing not to dignify words with my "share."
And that's why I choose to ignore them. You?
JESSICA GALLIART IS REDEYE'S SOCIAL MEDIA LADY.
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