Advanced Essay #4

Intro: My goals for this essay were to display the parallels between war and social media, and how the media has normalized violence. We have the capability to be so powerful behind a screen, and the effects that we can have on people are incredibly damaging which is something we rarely take into account since we view it as decent content. 

The Social Media Militia

We’re constantly being tempted to open those colorful little squares and plug into our own little worlds, where we choose to like someone’s picture, or comment on a post. Most of what we witness is just innocent content and continue with our day, but amidst the amusing and humorous lives the rude and malicious. We can’t escape it: the mysterious, snarling beast that disguises itself in 140 black and white characters.

Since the early days of humanity, people have been drawn to the nature of violence. Whether by finding it amusing or simply disgusting, there’s something about a little bloodshed, both physical or verbal, that sparks something within us. Why are we this way? Well, in a study about human brain activity by Dr. Jeanna Bryner, it states: “The reward pathway in the brain becomes engaged in response to an aggressive event and that dopamine is involved." We can’t help but sink our teeth into the sinful indulgence that results in the downfall of others. Activities like boxing, football, action movies, and other forms of violence are some of the most profitable types of entertainment because of that added golden factor. Seeing someone assert their power over another in these ways are possibly one of the most rewarding and satisfying things to witness. Social media however, provides us with an even scarier reality because it gives us that power. We’re given a platform to post and view whatever we desire, which comes at higher a cost than any of us could have imagined.

At first it seems pretty electrifying: the idea of having total control in a world of chaos and creating a cute environment with friends, family, and funny videos. Nice comments appear on your photos and you get lots of likes. You follow more people. More people follow you. Somewhere along the way, you discover a comment that’s not so nice, and soon you discover some not so nice posts. You dislike what you see and you comment back. After a while, you can’t stop seeing mean comments and posts and pictures, and all you can do is witness more and more mean responses. That is how they handled it and so must I, you think. This becomes your reality. This becomes your weaponry. Before you know it, the bad fuses with the good; it camouflages. You don’t realize it, but you have just been subconsciously prepared for Social Media warfare.

These characteristics are strangely similar to those of one who describes their experience of being in actual combat. Haywood T. Kirkland, an author, wrote a collection of memoirs from Vietnam War veterans, entitled Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans. One veteran recalls his experience behind enemy lines after being drafted in 1968: “They told us when you go over in Vietnam, you gonna be face to face with Charlie, the Viet Cong. They were like animals, or something other than human,” he explains. “They ain't have no regard for life. They'd blow up little babies just to kill one GI. They wouldn't allow you to talk about them as if they were people. They told us they're not to be treated with any type of mercy or apprehension. That's what they engraved into you. That killer instinct. Just go away and do destruction.”

The internet is an incredibly powerful resource that has an increasingly strong hold on what we perceive. Author Brittany Bostic explains: “Meta-analyses of the unhealthy effects of media-violence have shown that youth who view media-violence on a regular basis are more likely to exhibit antisocial behavior, ranging from imitative violent behavior with toys to criminal violence, acceptance of violent behavior, increased feelings of hostility, and desensitization toward violent behavior.” Society has conditioned us to normalize the presence of violence, and has created a sort of arena where we can exercise these behaviors at our liking. It’s not a necessity for us to carry high powered rifles or grenades on a daily basis. We are not handed A-K 47s whenever we leave our houses; but glued to our eyes and engraved in our brains is a tool capable of destruction just as powerful.