Social media is both a blessing and a curse. Seeing what is happening to my friends and family is a blessing. But it is also a curse as through the anonymity of social media, many engage in hateful dehumanizing language without fear or consequences. A 2015 study found that roughly 53% of Americans reported being exposed to hate speech on social media. But most Americans can’t agree on what speech is hateful, offensive, or simply a political opinion.
Social media allows one to see different viewpoints on an issue. Unlike some universities that offer "safe spaces" from opposing viewpoints. 66% of Americans feel universities aren’t teaching students the value of free speech. They feel that universities need to present all viewpoints, even if biased or offensive against certain groups.
The cyber-world and real-world seem to collide for some people. In the cyber world, it has allowed for groups to come together and share interests that might be looked down by society as a whole. One can forget social mores and resort to rudeness. The cyber-world is a form of escapism. Humans have relied on escape from the real world through television, video games, and books in years past.
There is no direct line between violent rhetoric and political violence if the speakers are careful not to name specific targets and means, and otherwise incriminate themselves. These edited remarks may be retweeted and amplified sharing with millions of followers in record time. We have had violence against political leaders recently such as Paul Pelosi (husband of Nancy Pelosi), Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Susan Collin, Rep. Steve Scalise, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Now a permanent fixture, Social Media has many benefits but needs reasonable limits. Person-to-person communication will lead to a less violent future. In a 2018 survey (Cigna), nearly half of 20,000 U.S. adults report they always feel alone and isolated. Loneliness and social isolation are twice as harmful to physical and mental health than being obese. The positive benefits of the internet (improved efficiency to information) is being overwhelmed by the negatives- disconnection from the real world that can unleash ugly behaviors. There are no easy answers. Perhaps treating it as an addiction and offering counselling. Outside social activities and limited internet use should start in young children. Whatever the solution, we need to see this as a problem that will only get worse.