Social media, scandal, and firestorms / by kevin murray

It use to be that in order for a scandal to take off, that it would have to either spread through word of mouth, or be instigated through the main media organs of the time and age, such as newsprint, radio, or television.  Nowadays, a scandal can literally be enflamed within less than a few hours, basically through people's social media accounts which aren't necessarily just local in nature, anymore, but global.  This means, fundamentally, that nearly every day something scandalous has been seen and commented upon by literally thousands upon thousands of people, and sometimes even millions.  While, to a certain degree, this might seem to be fair play, in reality, it almost never really is.  That is to say, those who are secretly recorded by someone or simply recorded without their expressed approval, exposing them thereby to the general public, for example, in embarrassing circumstances, are themselves often not able to stop the dissemination of that video, which usually never really even gives them a chance to weigh in with their side of the story.  So too, things that are said and done in private, can be indiscriminately posted for public consumption, which isn't fair for those that thought what was said and done was private, but now has been disclosed by one of the parties involved.  Additionally, there is just something intoxicating for lots of people about scandal, especially scandal involving things that are engaging to those particular people and their lives, of which, lost within the firestorm of the scandal, is that the real people exposed or involved in that scandal are definitely affected by it, but are unable to effectively countermand it, for like a forest fire that spontaneously begins, there isn't any known beginning and there isn't any easy way to put the fire out, except to let it, hopefully, burn itself out.


This means that for many people that they now live within a construct in which they cannot necessarily control their reputation, for there often isn't any one responsible party to hold accountable for a reputation destroyed.  Further, video and pictures, almost never tell the entire story, but only a prejudiced portion of the story; in addition to the fact, that editing tools are ubiquitous so that what is being displayed as true and accurate, may not actually be either of those things.  In the world before social media, newsrooms could and were held responsible for the content that they disseminated, in addition to the salient fact that discussions would ensue about whether to release a particular piece involving national security or personal foible to the public.  This has been replaced, instead, by people that post, re-post, and comment on things that perhaps would previously have never seen the light of day, or would not have picked up enough traction to really grievously harm a given individual. 


As it stands, the structure of social media makes it a medium which is perfect for the real-time transaction of data, of which, some of this is actually good and vital, in the sense that more people can be reached in a highly efficient way that can provide those people with information of relevancy and worth.  On the other hand, it is the same medium that can be extraordinarily destructive towards certain people, of which some of these affected people are either very young or very vulnerable or both.  This means that those that utilize social media accounts need to be more responsible about their posts, and in particular, those posts that are scandalous in nature, because what goes around, comes around -- all at a velocity and impact, previously unknown.