Is Social Media Evil?


I don’t have kids. I hope to have some one day, but I don’t have any right now. All I hope is that when I do, I resist the temptation to create a ‘cute kid’ viral video.

If you fall within the 78% of the developed world that has access to the internet (which you clearly do by virtue of the fact that you’re reading this sentence) then you know the type of video I’m referencing. A cute kid says something cute while his/her parents film and laugh in the background, prompting the kid to repeat whatever cute thing they’ve just said over and over again in the hope of creating a new viral catch-phrase. These videos seem harmless enough on the surface – there is absolutely nothing funnier in this world than a child returning from the dentist whilst still high on nitrous oxide – but the latest incarnation of this viral craze has highlighted something darker that is often overlooked.

The video is called “Dogs: 1 Nash: 0” and features a young child screaming for his parents’ assistance after he has just stepped in dog poop. The child cries for help, pleading for “paper towels”, yet all his parents can do is film the ordeal and provoke the child to repeat his ‘cute’ request.

This video made we wonder what went through these parents’ minds when they heard their child’s first cry of distress? Was it “OH MY GOD, MY CHILD IS IN TROUBLE?” or was it more along the lines of “OH MY GOD, THIS IS OUR CHANCE! OUR VERY OWN VIRAL SUPERSTAR! QUICK HANK, GRAB THE VIDEO CAMERA!!!”

Instead of helping, supporting, nurturing their child who is clearly disturbed by his current situation, these fame-hungry parents’ first inclination was to capture this moment in the hopes of making it onto Buzzfeed that day. Well mum and dad, mission accomplished. You did it. “I need paper towels” is now a thing.

But at what cost?

We live in an age of instant stardom. We have the ability to capture once private, ever day moments and broadcast them in the hope of receiving fanfare and approval from complete strangers. The more the merrier. Our ability to upload our entire lives has only fed our addiction to ourselves, an addiction that grows with every YouTube ‘hit.’ With the exception of kittens and smashed avocado on sourdough rye, ‘cute kids’ appear to be the most heavily exploited by our incessant need to ‘share.’ I don’t have kids, but I hope to have some one day, and my own thirst for online attention makes me fear how I will handle having a potential viral superstar sitting in a booster seat at my kitchen table.

Would I offer a paper towel?

Social media is not evil, it’s just empowering. We have exponentially greater access to content than ever before, and our connected world benefits every day from this information exchange. Messages of affection are sent; lectures that expand our minds are shared; opinions that challenge convention are published. But every now and then, we abuse this privilege and put our own virtual connectivity ahead of our reality. If we don’t take a second to acknowledge this power and that its misuse can damage the powerless (i.e. a child covered in s***), then we are negligent users and unworthy of the benefits.

The next time you hear a ‘cute kid’ cry for help, show them some love, not just some ‘like’.

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