The Problems with Social Media

A few days ago, a 14 year old Dutch girl identified only as “Sarah” sent out a tweet to American Airlines.

“hello my name’s Ibrahim and I’m from Afghanistan. I’m part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I’m gonna do something really big bye,” — @bizzledemetriax

The internet caught wind of this latest round of online idiocy, and it spread like wild-fire. Within a matter of time, that tweet garnered over 2000 retweets, even a response from American Airlines, saying that they had reported her tweet and IP address to the authorities. This spurned a serious of replies from “Sarah” back at American Airlines, saying she was joking, sorry, and that she was so scared.

Yesterday, she was arrested by Rotterdam authorities, with an investigation pending.

This leads us to today, where now dozens upon dozens of teenagers are following in “Sarah’s” footsteps by tweeting more bomb-threats at American Airlines (likely in retaliation for arresting the Dutch teen), and bizarrely, Southwest Airlines — a completely unrelated airline.

While Sarah may have just been spouting off the idiotic thoughts that came to her head, like many teenagers before her, the fact of the matter is that she did so on a public, nay, international, platform. She many have genuinely not known that she would cause trouble, and that an airline as big as American, would take it seriously, because y’know, bomb threats. When the lives of their passengers are at stake, the airline has to do everything in their power to prevent anything from happening, even if the threat turns out to be fake. Her copycats, however, know exactly what they are doing, and I hope that they too realize soon how unfunny it all really is.

Social media is amazing. It lets me connect and contact some of my favourite people I otherwise would have absolutely no access to, and have conversations with them. It allows disgruntled people to voice their opinions about companies, letting their public voice enact some sort of positive change. It lets me, sitting at home, get real-time updates about the situations going on all over the world. It lets important people reach out to the masses to talk about things that matter to them; to spur conversation in an effort to help better the world. The downside is that it lets everyone think that what they have to say is important, even if 99% of the time it’s just verbal diarrhoea turned into digital text.

The problem, however, lies in the fact that it creates a sort of disconnect, in that people do not associate their online persona’s with their real-life selves. They think that just because they hide behind an online handle, they can get away with anything, because the online world is different from that of the real world, and that doing something online cannot have consequences offline. That is entirely untrue, as seen in the case with “Sarah”, and something that more people need to realize.

And that’s the issue with having everything instant — there’s no longer any time to sit and think about what you want to say. You see something, react, and post said reaction, and then move onto the next thing. We’ve become addicted to this, and go crazy inside until we get it out of our system in a way that the whole world can know.

Don’t get me wrong, I love social media and think that it’s a great tool when used properly, but when idiots get a hold of it and use it to spew their idiocies across the web for the rest of us, it ruins it for the rest of us.

Perhaps arresting “Sarah” was the right thing to do. She’s no longer a child, but is not quite yet an adult either, but she also needs to learn a lesson, and be used as an example of what not to do.

People like to say that this newest generation is going downhill, and there are many instances where I’d normally like to disagree, but in this case, I simply cannot. I’m frankly quite scared for when these maladjusted teens grow up and have to face the real world with real consequences.