Social media is responsible for the deaths of thousands – maybe millions – of kittens. Let me explain.
The internet is far and away the most significant invention in the past century. In terms of its impact on human civilization, the internet is in the same ranks as electricity, the printing press, cars and the wheel. All of those inventions had positive effects on human civilization. They also had unintended consequences. The internet is no exception.
Among the many flaws of the internet, social media is perhaps the greatest. Despite turning human civilization into a global community from the more national, regional and localized communities we’re used to, social media has also managed to tear apart individual lives with no mercy, regrets, discrimination or sympathy. Kind of like nature.
Before the internet, access to millions – even billions – of people were limited to a select few. Essentially, only world leaders, celebrities and the media had such access. Those people were fully aware of the power they held by having access to a mass audience and therefore instituted rules and ethics to live by, especially the press. One tiny mistake in a story about an average person can ruin their lives.
Today, your typical village idiot has that same access, and in some ways, even more. However, the average person does not understand the power they hold by being able to reach a mass audience. It’s similar to a gorilla with a pet kitten, like Koko. Unlike Koko, this gorilla does not understand its own strength and consistently kills its pet kittens by accident. The gorilla means well, but just can’t grasp the concept of its strength relative to the kittens.
For decades, journalists have been trained through education and experience on how to deal with the power they wield. To start, they should report the facts and only the facts. Second, there is a two-source system and other checks and balances to ensure the facts are indeed facts. Third, identities of certain people are protected for certain reasons. Fourth, not everything is reported because not everything is newsworthy. The list goes on and on.
These rules and ethics are in place to ensure the public is protected from misinformation and the public itself is protected. A misinformed society is a crumbling society. As far as personal protection, rules and ethics prevent journalists from publishing content that could ruin the lives and reputations of innocent people. Journalism is a powerful industry. It’s why we have libel and slander laws.
Now, a high school dropout with no sense of morals has that same power. As a result, lies, misinformation, pseudo-facts and propaganda are spreading like wildfire and the flames are swallowing up the gullible and uneducated.
Harm being committed is not always malicious or intended. Sometimes simply posting a picture of someone without their consent can have unintended consequences. People forget that the picture can reach millions of people in a matter of minutes or seconds. Before the internet, you would have to pay the New York Times or a national television network for ad space to get that kind of exposure for a picture. Even then, media outlets would likely decline the ad money due to rules and ethics. On the surface, the picture doesn’t need to be “damaging” in order to do damage.
A recent Twitter post I saw sparked this blog entry. A Twitter account in England with about 2,000 followers posted a picture of a page from a 1970s porn mag. The person ran across the magazine while cleaning out an attic. Apparently, the previous homeowner had a stash of some very niche English porn.
The new homeowner took a picture of a page that featured a model named Laura. On that page is some text where Laura explains she is a marketing executive in a certain city. That posted was then shared by a Twitter account with nearly 100,000 followers. From there, who knows how many people have seen Laura’s porn shoot from four decades ago.
When I pointed out to the person who made the original post that it is not fair for Laura for them to publicly post that page, people were quick to tell me I could not be more wrong. Their defense was that Laura made a decision 40 years ago to do a porn shoot and was well aware of the potential consequences of doing so. Therefore, Laura needs to own her actions of the past. In other words, Laura did a porn shoot for a magazine 40 years ago…what did she expect to happen?
Not this, and I will tell you why.
One consequence of the internet is that it made nearly every kind of porn imaginable accessible at your fingertips in the matter of seconds anytime and anywhere. All of this for free. Consequently, porn became far less taboo and much more mainstream. There was less shame in consuming porn. Needless to say, demand skyrocketed.
Today, there are probably millions of porn clips featuring thousands upon thousands of young men and women looking to make a quick buck with the potential of the rare lucrative porn career. The market is saturated.
Since the turn of the century, anyone deciding to get into porn is well aware that it will likely end up on the internet for free. In other words, the odds of someone you know finding the video you are in are much better than an age before the internet. Expectations for someone getting into porn today are dramatically different than the expectations of Laura back in the ‘70s. Let’s rewind to that era.
Although there was not nearly as much porn available 40 years ago, there was most definitely a market with plenty of content feeding high demand. Since porn was considered more taboo, there was not as large of a supply of women eager to get into the business. Therefore, pay for a single shoot was probably more than one would receive today.
So already, there is some financial incentive to do a single shoot. But is the quick cash worth the possibility of someone you know discovering the magazine? Back in the ‘70s, the odds were more in your favor.
Without the internet, porn consumers would have to leave their house and go to an adult store with a variety of magazines and videos on the shelves. These stores were not exactly the size of commercial, mainstream video stores, so their collection was more limited. Considering the odds that any one adult store has decided to carry the porn you are featured in is already slim.
Now consider the taboo nature of porn to the consumer. Since you had to physically go out in public to purchase porn, there is less incentive to acquire porn on two fronts: 1) You had to pay and therefore explain where that money went if you’re not single and 2) You risk getting caught at the porn shop by someone you know. Therefore, when someone decides to purchase porn, they are making a calculated decision. They are only buying something they know they want and in limited quantities.
Despite less content in the ‘70s, it was far less likely for someone you know to run across your short-lived experience. People could not exactly scroll through an endless stream of images and videos at no charge. They only saw what they purchased.
This all means that the expectations of someone doing a porn shoot in the ‘70s were significantly different than his or her modern counterpart. Anyone who decides to do porn today understands it will be posted on the internet and accessible to everyone at no cost. People today are also aware that all it takes is for one person in their town to discover it before the entire city knows in the matter of minutes. Several decades ago, you could move away and start a new life if the locals found out. Today, it will follow you everywhere.
Back to Laura.
When Laura did a porn shoot for a very niche magazine in the U.K. approximately four decades ago, there was absolutely no way for her to expect that those images would be seen by millions of people worldwide. Again, the odds of an acquaintance being at a porn shop with that specific magazine and then deciding to purchase said magazine are pretty slim. It’s entirely possible, that Laura did that one shoot, collected her money and lived out the next 40 years free of consequences.
Then the internet happened.
Four decades have passed. Laura’s porn shoot is in her past. She probably doesn’t even think about it. No need. Nothing has occurred in the past 40 years to remind her of youthful indiscretions.
Then a complete stranger finds the magazine, finds the page and then feels the need to share to the world their find. A complete stranger has decided for Laura, without her consent, that her little secret needs to be exposed. Laura, possibly a grandmother by now, has been forced to relive her past and possibly explain it to those around her because a complete stranger with a Twitter account did not bother to think about the consequences of their actions. The person with a Twitter account does not consider the fact that the person in that porn magazine page was and still is a human being, not some still image drawing.
Perhaps more revealing is that the person with the Twitter account does not even know a world before the internet. To this person, anyone who does porn should expect to be discovered by the world. To this person, a world where someone can do porn in secrecy does not exist. To this person, there are no rules, boundaries or ethics to what they can post. To this person, there is no back story to a complete stranger they want to expose.
It is entirely possible that Laura does not care about any of this. Everyone Laura knows can see that magazine and Laura will be fine with it. Yes, that is possible. The complete opposite is also possible. The person with the Twitter account did not bother to find out and took it up herself to decide for Laura what was going to happen. After all, Laura made a decision 40 years ago and has to live with that decision. That was what I was told.
The gorilla has snapped the kitten’s neck but was only trying to love it. Despite the intent, the kitten is still dead. Metaphorical kittens are dying every day because of social media. When the average person didn’t have access to the masses, far fewer kittens were killed.
Social media is killing kittens.