Last week, PetaPixel reported a news regarding how over twenty students are suspended for liking an Instagram post about a school shooting. Reading through the article immediately sparks a long thought in my mind.
If you’re unaware of the story, a person made a gun threat against the school on Instagram. While it was later identified that the post was a terrible joke. The school, however, took drastic action against everyone involved. That includes suspending the students who “Liked” the post for the reason of “endorsing a threat against the school”.
Just an innocent double tap?
If we were to put things into perspective, let say Johnny had depression and he posted on social media about killing himself. Could you imagine the outcome if his friends are all about “liking” his post? or those who commented to ask him to go ahead because they think it is funny?
As I always believed, the social media is an extension of our real life because we have a community of friends and family in it. Social interaction is happening without the need of having anything physical. The peers’ reaction will have an effect on the subject, which in this case, there’s a high chance that Johnny will succumb to his depression and actually take his own life.
People are always looking for the final “kick” that actually pushes them to take the action that’s in their mind. As a tech writer, I get a lot of questions from my friends and relative regarding a certain purchase they wanted to make. What I observed is that most of them already have a decision in their mind. They just needed someone to convince them that their action or decision is the right one.
Looking back at the example, are Johnny’s friends directly causing him to end his own life? Maybe no, but they are more like indirectly caused his death. They knew of his intention and could have stopped him from doing so instead of just giving the “like”. This is more like a challenge against the people’s morality. Whether you choose to endorse or oppose or being ignorant.
The Internet and social media have changed how we communicate and share with others. However, that doesn’t mean that we get to do whatever we want on it. While it may seem that we are protected by a certain level of anonymity on the Internet, but technically, it doesn’t work that way.
Even if you argue that you’re behind a complicated proxy network, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are what you did. I personally am a strong believer of that the Internet and social media is an extension of our identity. It is another “reality” that we live in where it doesn’t require physical interaction.
The school’s drastic decision to suspend the students is first of its kind. Taking the judgement upon their hands and deem the student’s action as an endorsement of a potential violent outcome. That also shows that even an half-witted digital action of “liking” can bring a different kind of meaning in real life.