This module highlighted the role of digital and social media platforms in giving the population at large a voice, and a role – whether for better or worse. We all talked about how social media outlets like Twitter can be used to create and maintain community: this is the case for, say, music fanbases (Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters, and the One Direction fandom at large!). Easily accessible communities like this are on one hand undoubtedly a good thing, uniting people from all over the world who live different lives in different circumstances with different privileges or disadvantages; a shared interest unifies people, and digital media allows this on a global scale.
However, what social media also does is provide anonymity. I once tweeted – blandly, to no one – something about wondering why we were so interested in Tom from McFly’s baby; and I got a couple of retweets and replies, not from people I know but from people with usernames like @Xx_mcbusted_Xx saying I need educating, and that ‘at least he [me, a girl with short hair] spelt it right’. It was strange, and admittedly incredibly mild. But consider other social media users who become the victims of extreme, incessant and abusive trolling like this for randomly saying something about Zayn that gets picked up by accounts constantly searching One Direction buzzwords. And furthermore consider the active feminists, LGBT*QI+ activists and so on who are subjected to awful rape and death threats regularly from anonymous Twitter users who simply don’t like what’s being said – not that they are offended by it, but that they don’t like it.
As well, briefly, I’ll mention again Jon Ronson’s journey into the world of public shaming, and the role digital and social media platforms provide us the public to become the judge, jury and executioner of people who make poorly judged comments online. Is that our role? To humiliate those we think are in the wrong; to jump on the bandwagon of a thousand other Twitter uses to hound a person out of the social media town? Whether it’s our role or not, social media allows us to take it on anyway.