One of the great things about social media is the way it has united people who have lost touch over the years as their busy lives have taken them far from home and far from long-time friends.
But social media also can divide us. I see it today in the current political climate where my friends on both sides of the spectrum say the most extreme things about the other. In the days before social media, we’d just forget the excessive political rants and friends and coworkers said within earshot of just a few. But today, the words are out there for everyone to see for all time.
The fallout may cause some to quietly un-friend the perpetrator of the rant, but in another world, the consequences are much more tragic.
That’s the theme of a recent article in Wired Magazine. I encourage everyone to read it. The piece explains how social media is fueling the gang wars in Chicago. It offers an explanation for the weekly outburst of shootings on the streets of Chicago.
Here’s why: Before social media, a kid just hanging with his buddies insults some gang rival. More than likely, only those within earshot ever hear of the insult, and life goes on.
Today, someone in the kid’s gang records a video of the insult and posts it on YouTube.
Suddenly, everyone in the world can see the insult, including the gang rival who has been disrespected, only now he has been disrespected before the whole world. Everyone in his circle will now watch what the rival does, and then judge.
He can let it go, and risk more insults, more disrespect and a declining status on the street, or he must exact some sort of retribution.
Maybe he makes a video insulting the rival. Or maybe he gets a gun.
The end result? Double-digit shootings every week and 500 homicides every year on the streets of Chicago.
The tragedy, the senselessness and the waste of it all is just horrifying. So many young people searching for status and meaning to their lives by killing each other is the No. 1 problem facing the country.
Yet we turn away and refuse to face it. We pretend it doesn’t exist.
Maybe, just maybe, if it’s on YouTube, we’ll start to believe it.