My eyes have been opened to a trend on social media that I’ve never really given much thought about in the past. I’ve played spectator to some incredible moments of disrespect and indignity and I’m compelled to respond. The first “awakening” came when a parent to an Autistic child chose to share a graphic video of their child having a violent meltdown. This parent claimed to be “bringing awareness” to Autism by making this video public. Autistic adults across the country spoke out against this “dehumanizing” practice. They believed that the parent only hoped to “bring awareness” to her plight as a parent of an Autistic child, not to actually help Autistic children.
A second incident, completely unrelated to the first, grabbed my attention and sent up enormous red flags. An older gentleman, dining alone with a bottle of ashes, presumably of his significant other, has his picture taken by another diner. She uses this picture as a platform for a long-winded speech about showing love while you still can. She admits that she doesn’t know this man or his story, but she uses his grief as a platform for her own message. This “story” is picked up by a local news channel, who then plaster this man’s picture and HER story across social media. Everyone in the comments expresses sadness, then moves on.
Many of you may be wondering, “So, what’s the problem? This is commonplace on social media.” And, unfortunately, that is absolutely true. We have become an unfeeling society, with zero understanding and empathy for our fellow man. Sure, we know how to appropriately comment with crying emojis and praying hands, but do we actually stop and think about the person in the photo or video? Do we take a moment before sharing to our own social media platforms with sweet or supportive platitudes to consider that the subject of these “stories” may not want this attention? That these people deserve respect and privacy, even in a public place?
This child needed her parents to help her cope and support her through an overwhelming experience. She could not consent to being filmed and could not advocate for herself in that moment. Many Autistic adults across social media even questioned if her parents were purposely aggravating the situation by their actions and filming. Does that seem right to you?
This man was grieving the best way he knew how, but caught in the emotion of the moment was overwhelmed. Did he deserve to have this moment broadcast to the world because someone else thought it was poignant? When did we become so devoid of empathy for the suffering of others? Why do we feel entitled to benefit from someone else’s pain?
Consider this, would you really want your weakest moment, your greatest difficulty, your intensest moment of grief broadcast to the world without your permission? I certainly wouldn’t!
Is it truly possible that people don’t recognize that exposing these moments potentially multiplies their suffering? Are we so callous? Or have we become so consumed with the aspiration of going “viral” that we put aside our humanity for a moment…and feed our vanity instead.
My friends, I ask you to think twice about how your actions affect others and to make the choice to show respect instead. Your fellow man, woman, and child deserve that much. And perhaps, if a few more people chose respect over popularity, this world might be a better place for all of us.