The student news site of Baruch

The Ticker

The student news site of Baruch

The Ticker

The student news site of Baruch

The Ticker

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Social media has become a tool for virality, not virtue

Vibodha Gallage Dona

Media spectacles and the goal of virality has desensitized people to the concept of privacy. Everyone has an intrinsic right to privacy, which should be respected in public spaces. People need to stop recording strangers without their consent.

On social media there is a growing number of people feeling comfortable recording others without their consent and posting it online with the hopes of going viral. Recorded content can vary from an old man eating by himself, someone experiencing an evident mental breakdown or homeless people on the street.

In New York, there is a one-party consent law, where only one contributor in the conversation needs to provide consent to record legally. It is also legal to film people in public settings.

However, it should be a given that people, on their commute to and from work or school, don’t want to be watched and posted for doing something mundane.

This constant surveillance is not only unhealthy but also turns human beings into sources of content to be extracted. As the lines between private and public life blur, American culture will undergo a severe transformation in how people interact with one another in public.

Recording people without their awareness adds a layer of dehumanization to the point when terrible things happen in front of bystanders, the public’s first instinct is to pull out their cellphones instead of reaching out to help.

Additionally, the spread of misinformation is concerning, where someone can paste text on a video and millions of people will take it as fact.

Social media has the power to distinctly change how people view someone. With the growing amount of false information put into the media on a daily basis, it’s simple for anyone to become the main character online because of a fabricated story.

Our growing surveillance state can be better understood by English philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon theory.

The concept of the panopticon is simple: there is a central watchtower placed inside a circle of prison cells. The watchmen inside the central watchtower can observe all the prisoners inside their cells, but the prisoners can never see the watchmen.

Since the prisoners don’t know when they are being watched, they act under the guise of constant surveillance and assume that the watchmen are always there. Sound familiar?

In this digital age, people are living in a ‘media panopticon’ where they are both the watchmen and the prisoners. People are constantly being viewed while simultaneously consuming and watching others.

A random stranger that goes viral is exposed to all sorts of insults and unwanted opinions from other strangers that they will probably never meet or know. They are forced into an imaginary cell, as we play the parts of the diligent watchmen. 

Through the ubiquitous specter of the internet, we are in a state of constant surveillance—whether that’s through street cameras, app tracking or content harvesting.

Recording people in public isn’t necessarily always an evil thing. 

Videotaping people in public has been a beneficial way to expose injustice, racism and predators. For instance, during the Charlottesville rallies, many of the white supremacists from that day lost their jobs due to their faces going viral on Twitter and TikTok.      

While this type of circulation is essential, social media has opened the doors to people feeling comfortable impeding on the lives of innocent people for the sake of content.      

Those who use their children as content pigs, those who go viral by showing someone’s outfit and those who record their grandparents suffering from Alzheimer’s under the false guise of ‘raising awareness’ when it’s just exploitation, are all destructive and need to stop.

The internet is an expansive and complicated ecosystem. The parts we play are integral to the structure of it as we like, share and film videos every day.

We are subjected to the constant filming and scrutinization of others because of the existence of social media platforms. The worst thing is—you can’t avoid it! Anyone can go viral for anything. 

Social media has become a tool for virality, not virtue.

This is why it’s important to acknowledge that, more often than not, public filming is not used to protect our community, but more so to publicly humiliate someone for doing something ordinary.      

While some people might not think that this issue isn’t a big deal, it’s important to analyze how individual and collective actions work to shape the culture around us. 

Next time you post a video online, it’s necessary to think about what kind of culture you’re feeding into with the content you’re sharing. When we discuss the age of digital surveillance, we often discuss how sites like Facebook and Tiktok can extract personal information from us— however, we should also talk about how we extract information from each other.    

View Comments (1)
More to Discover
Donate to The Ticker

Comments (1)

All The Ticker Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • A

    Angelyn B.Sep 19, 2023 at 9:56 pm

    I totally agree with what you said about how posting without consent can be dehumanizing. Makes people feel as if they cannot be themselves in public and have to hide in fear of being judged by the general public just for being who they are. Great article Steph!