If your first reaction to a viral offensive tweet by someone who is not a public figure is to try to ruin the person’s life, you need to get some perspective.
I saw an article recently that said after Roseanne Barr’s racist post on Twitter got her fired is that any of us could be next. Well, no. Most people know better than to say – much less post publicly – that a black person is a gorilla. But it does bring up an important issue regarding social media lynch mobs.
For celebrities – movie stars, political pundits, journalists, and high-level politicians – they are getting what they signed up for. But for the average person, engagement in social media is something they to for fun, to stay connected with friends and family, or maybe just spout some opinions here and there. The speed at which an average person can have his or her life ruined by saying something stupid online is a little unnerving.
Let’s say a private citizen posts an offensive “joke” – one that is undeniably racist. Does she deserve to be heavily criticized and mocked for it on Twitter? Sure. Should she lose her job? No. That is a disproportionate reaction to the offense. Should she be deluged with death threats and rape threats? Absolutely not! Does the pitchfork mob have any sense of perspective when hurling this kind of abuse?
Finally, we need to be honest here. It is undeniable that if you went through every idle word we have uttered – in email, in a text message, or in person – that you could find something that we would be horrified to have other people know we said. This is the case for every single person who has ever lived, without exception. The difference between our stupid and offensive utterances and the people targeted by social media lynch mobs is our stupidity and/or wickedness is not seen by millions of people. If you honestly look in the mirror and examine yourself, you cannot sustain this level of outrage.