When social media goes viral it can destroy lives. Yesterday before the 9:00 Mass, I read in the news feed about an incident captured on a phone video showing a verbally violent scene depicting a group of men shouting a variety of hateful rhetoric to the people around them. A group of teenagers from a Catholic high school ,on their way to the Match For Life in Washington, engaged these hostile men. While there was no physical violence, the small group of men representing a fringe group taunted the people and a Native American man present at the scene, began to chant and beat his drum, trying to defuse the situation.
It “appeared” on the video that the high school students were mocking this Native American, with one young man staring at him with a smile on his face. Immediately, the report stated that these high school students were shouting racially insensitive comments. The image of this young man staring down the Native American went viral, depicting him as contributing to a racially charged incident. The Catholic high apologized for their abhorrent behavior.
But a viewing of the entire video depicts a much more nuanced explanation. The young man, himself, defending his action saying he was just trying to be a peaceful presence. Unfortunately, millions of people saw the short video with no context and rushed to judgements. I reported the incident at mass after reading the apology issued by the authorities st the high school.
This young man and his family have encountered death threats and horribly violent language. Whatever happened, we only got a tiny snippet of a video with a judgement by people who didn’t see the whole video or wished to depict these catholic youth in a negative light.
Lives can be destroyed when images and videos are posted with literally no thought. These social media posts can literally haunt a person when trying to get into a college or search for a job. We all have to be careful how we carry ourselves in public and in large gatherings. People love to capture an image of something that will attract followers and with multiple responses. Little care is given to the ramifications or consequences. Some individuals have even resorted to suicide when they feel totally overwhelmed and trapped.
Social media is here to stay and has a vital role to play in conveying information and telling stories. But it must never be used to destroy people’s lives. When confronted by a group of individuals saying hateful things, it’s best to simply quietly move on, never engaging these deranged people. It’s impossible to have a rational discussion with people who have no conscience.
Peace. Fr. Frank