Is there ever a time when it is okay to celebrate someone getting sick?
I would say there isn’t, but a mass of people on Twitter and Facebook seemed to think it is perfectly fine. This is when the social media platforms take on a dark tone and it makes me wonder how we will ever move forward and find some common ground.
When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced on her official Twitter account that she was sick, the comments started coming in fast and furious.
Some were well-wishers who understood how long it can take to get back to full recovery, and a few chose to commiserate with her.
Others were not so nice. The worst comments are not worth linking to here, and some were on Facebook (which is more of a closed network than Twitter).
I noticed a few short comments pop up like “good” on her feed, but the ones that took me by surprise were even more hurtful and hateful.
Those two words define what we often experience on these platforms.
A few years ago, I had reached the breaking point. People who were obviously very angry at the world would comment on something I wrote and even made death threats. Keep in mind, I often write about technology and social media, topics that should be perfectly safe. Most of us developed thick skin or stopped looking at comments, but that’s not always easy.
With AOC, as she is known, it must be next to impossible. One of the most sarcastic tweets came from a conservative activist who posted a tweet on January 9:
It gets far worse. That tweet led to a series of harsh and downright offensive comments, some blocked by Twitter (but not all).
On Facebook, there seems to be an open mic for derision and abuse. Again, I won’t share specifics but let’s just say there are people who are using coarse and vulgar language to attack someone who is already dealing with a health crisis.
Where will it end? We pick people we don’t like and don’t agree with and we use these platforms to attack them, post links, share dubious claims and then assume those digital bits and bytes won’t be blocked or censored.
Amazingly, they are often left untouched. Policing the comments doesn’t help, because those who are doing the attacks simply try new phrases and words the algorithms won’t catch. Twitter can’t employ a million people to keep tabs on these posts, and the algorithms can’t keep up. They fester on platforms that were originally intended as a fair exchange of ideas. They are anything but right now.
There are half-baked solutions like age-gating, accountability among peers, new AI routines that work harder and smarter to patrol the landscape. My view is that the only thing that will work is when we all start to learn civility again, one tweet at a time, and when we replace all of the harsh and confrontational comments with those that are encouraging and positive instead.
It starts with each person deciding to finally put an end to the derision and start acting like we are humans again.