I believe it is time to address the global impact that technology has today. More importantly, it is fundamental to understand the role that technology has in our lives. Today, we don’t seem to want to focus on the impact or the nature of technology. We simply just use it – and, in a sense, underestimate its lasting influence on others.
We all use social media for many different reasons, including being well informed individuals and reading live news updates. Due to the nature of news delivered to us right before our eyes, we are prone to make quick judgements about incidents that unfold on our screens – a bit like an uninteresting novel; there is no before, or after, or possible reasoning behind the actions included.
Ben Thompson, in his blog Stratechery, identifies how Facebook, as a social media platform, controls the vast majority of what people see online – news included – which is “overwhelming”. There is a starting point, and a continuous streaming of events that happen in the present moment. It is not only inclusive, in that it involves the internet audience, but it is also destructive in many aspects.
The live coverage of the murder of Alton Sterling, recorded by an eye witness, was shared online. Cameron, his 15-year-old son, saw the graphic and horrifying scenes of the murder of his father online. At the news conference on 6th July 2016, the suffering of Alton Sterling’s loved ones is undeniably evident. Not only does the murder of Alton Sterling raise worrying concerns about police brutality and treatment, but there are many complications surrounding the nature of the video and matter.
BBC reports that Cameron’s mother, Quinyetta McMillon, said “[Cameron] had to watch [the video] as this was put all over the outlets”, and she states: “as a mother, I have now been forced to raise a son who is going to remember what happened to his father.”
Another pertinent example is the live coverage of the shooting of Philando Castile, recorded by his girlfriend, Lavish Reynolds, and appeared on the news feed of many Facebook users. There was a significant response to the incident, and the reactions are now constantly shared, tweeted, and spread on social media platforms. The news of a man’s death was a trending topic on Twitter for 24 hours, and the reactions of celebrities followed, with an overwhelming number of people contributing their opinions on the incident.
We may be reading the stories at work, university, or even at the comfort of our own home. We read these news stories and tend to quickly make our judgements – especially when we learn of incidents which require us to determine the perpetrator and the victim.
But in actuality, these situations require much thought, consideration, and – most importantly – time to assess and form a judgement about. Treating live videos as breaking news does not only lead to judgements based on potential untruths, but also works as a solid and concrete barrier between the truth and our (mis)understanding of it.
There are many disadvantages with instant live streaming and videos, which put journalists and news reporters at risk. It leaves us asking: if we learn breaking news in the time of the incident, how are we to fully understand the situation? Even more importantly, how are we to make an informed judgement whereby we do not have the full information to base it on?
These are the very situations that we may well know little to nothing about – and we thoughtlessly, almost senselessly, regurgitate information to our work colleagues, friends, and family with the crafted content that we absorb online. Real life isn’t always as simple as the internet makes it seem. There are no snappy headlines, straplines and captions. But there are real feelings, actions and consequences. It’s important to remember that and, perhaps, it’s time to start thinking before we click.