Social Media and its Densensitization of Serious Issues

To say that Kehlani has had a difficult past 72 hours would be an understatement.

Image via Kehlani's Instagra,
Image via Kehlani’s Instagra,

On Monday, March 28, PartyNextDoor, a Canadian rapper and ex-boyfriend of Grammy nominated R&B singer-songwriter Kehlani, 20, posted a photo of the two apparently holding hands in his bed. Neither of their faces were shown. However, the tattoo on one the hands mirrors tattoos of Kehlani. The photo has since been deleted off of PartyNextDoor’s Instagram account.

The caption for the photo read:

After all her shenanigans, still got the r&b singer back in my bed

The Internet completely went wild. Up until this moment the assumption was that Kehlani was still dating Cleveland Cavaliers player Kyrie Irving. Since this was the assumption, Kehlani was immediately and aggressively judged and sentenced in the court of public opinion. Her sentence? She was slut-shamed and even threatened with physical violence.

Kehlani announced Tuesday with a post on Instagram that she had attempted to commit suicide. In the post, which has since been deleted, Kehlani shared a photo from her hospital bed with the caption that read:

today I wanted to leave this earth. Being completely selfish for once. Never thought I’d get to such a low point. But.. Don’t believe the blogs you read .. No one was cheated on and I’m not a bad person… Everyone is hurt and everyone is in a place of misunderstanding.. But as of today, i had no single wish to see tomorrow.. But God saved me for a reason, and for that… I must be grateful.. Cuz I’m not in heaven right now for a reason.. On that note.. Bye Instagram.

This did not stop The Internet from continuing to harass and slut-shame the singer on social media. In an attempt to clear up something that is absolutely none of our business, Kehlani posted a photo to Instagram with a caption explaining that she did not cheat on Kyrie Irving because the two are currently broken up.

Many people, including some celebrities, took to the internet to show support for Kehlani. The hashtag #StayStrongKehlani emerged and trended on Twitter. However, despite the positive energy flowing from fans and supporters, many others were still critical of Kehlani and even a suicide attempt couldn’t soften their blows.

Singer Chris Brown even used his ‘expertise’ to criticize Kehlani’s suicide attempt.

The truth is that now we live during a time where many of us share almost every aspect about our lives on social media. I have seen photos of pregnancy tests shared on Instagram from people that I have not seen in the last 10 years. I see screenshots of business emails sent from professionals that people post on a weekly basis. This has become social media’s norm. I am shocked that people are still surprised and find it unbelievable that individuals share things as serious as suicide on their social media networks. Even research from Ohio State University indicates that “adolescents commonly use social media to reach out when they are depressed.”

Suicide continues to be a serious problem across the United States and the rest of the world. It was the second leading cause of death for 10 – 34-year-olds in the United States in 2014. The number of people attempting suicide each year is staggering. U.S. emergency departments treat approximately 500,000 people a year for self-inflicted wounds. Globally, more than 800,000 people die from suicide every year.

Has social media desensitized us so much to the issues of suicide, mental illness, and rape that we laugh and condemn people dealing with these issues or for not reaching out for help like we assume we would do in a similar situation? Would Kehlani have had to succeed at her suicide attempt for it to be widely taken serious? Unfortunately, what happened to Kehlani is not out of the ordinary. Mocking those who have attempted suicide, are dealing with depression, or are rape victims is not just limited to celebrities or adults. Audrey Pott, a 15-year-old high school student committed suicide in 2012 after photos of her sexual assault were circulated and ridiculed on social media. In 2014, the photos of an unconscious 16-year-old that were taken after she was allegedly drugged and raped at a party with fellow high school students went viral. The Internet used the hashtag #jadapose to mock the unconscious body of the teen, who has since been asked to be identified as Jada.

Has our everyday activity on social media desensitized us to serious and dangerous issues? Things that are posted on social media do not automatically receive a dismissal of its serious issues just because of the channel in which it’s being discussed. Times have changed, and with it has also come a change in how we choose to communicate and express ourselves. It’s time to accept it.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-1800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use the Lifeline Crisis Chat to talk with someone online. Both are available 24/7.

What the Heck Does that Hashtag Mean?!

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve been on Twitter and came across a hashtag that I have no idea what it means. I click the hashtag in order to pull some context clues from different tweets, but sometimes that still doesn’t give me enough information.

Luckily, there’s #tagdef. lets you look up the definition to any hashtag. It also tells you how popular the hash tag is and if it’s new to the Twitter world. Unfortunately, every hashtag doesn’t yet have a definition on #tagdef. The good thing is you’re allowed to add one if there isn’t already.

Try it out and tell me what you think!


Unplug Yourself Sometimes!

I love social media. I love the way it instantly links me to what’s going on in the world as soon as it happens. Breaking news? It’s delivered to my phone in seconds. Whether I can be in front a television or not has no effect on my knowledge of current events. One simple check in on Foursquare gets me $10 off my meal at my favorite restaurant. If I need to know the move for the night, Twitter becomes my personalized directory. Facebook housed numerous of my graduate class discussions. I also have an iPhone, meaning anything of social media value is always at my fingertips.

I can go on and for days why I love social media. It fills my addiction to connect with the world around me, BUT it won’t connect me to everything. As much as I love it, I also know how important it is for me to UNPLUG.

Unplugging ourselves teaches us how to interact offline. It teaches us how to better interact with people face to face. I can’t even count the number of times I’m at an event or out with a group of people and individuals are so engulfed in their social media applications on their phone that I’m standing there thinking, “Umm… so why are you here?” or “Why did you want me hear if we’re not going to socialize with each other?” Then there are people who have become so comfortable with communicating online that it’s almost impossible for them to communicate face to face. NEWSFLASH! The world still functions face to face! You need that ability to succeed!

Unplug yourself! Become a part of the world. Pay attention to what’s going on around you. When you’re connected to social media 24/7, you’re unintentionally telling people not so great things about yourself. Things that can really hinder you from some pretty awesome opportunities. You don’t have to unplug all the time. Sometimes just take a break. Appreciate what’s offline.

AIDS Activist Reprimanded for Tweets

Yesterday Rae Lewis-Thornton posted a blog post about having her honorary membership with her sorority rescinded because of tweets she posted about a year ago. Now just in case you don’t know who Rae  Lewis-Thorton is…

Rae was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1986 when she was 23 years old. Nine years later, Rae had full blown AIDS. (She is now approaching her 50th birthday by the way!) Throughout the past 15 years Rae has been traveling the world to educate young and old audiences alike about HIV/AIDS. She speaks to dismantle the myths about living with and contracting HIV/AIDS. In 1994, Rae was featured on the cover of Essence magazine and has even been the focus of feature stories in Ebony Magazine, Glamour and The Oprah Magazine for her work with HIV/AIDS. Rae also is an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. or perhaps I should say was. 

Last night, Rae revealed on her blog that Tuesday (May 1) she received a phone call informing her that her honorary membership with her sorority had been rescinded due to comments she made on Twitter about another sorority member in December 2010. Rae said the member had been disrespectful in the manner in which she asked Rae to remove sorority pictures from her website, and in return Rae relayed the conversation on Twitter and chastised the member to her Twitter followers. At one point Rae also tweeted that the member was addressing her “like a bitch off the street”.

Ironically, that was the same day Rae was coming to speak at my now alma mater, Johnson C. Smith University. That’s probably the reason I remember those tweets like it was yesterday. That night Rae even opened up her lecture talking about the incident, but I’m going to have to be honest with you guys. I really admired Rae that day. I loved her ‘take no nonsense’ attitude, and I can’t even begin to tell you how impressed I was by the way she went about her work of educating, informing, and breaking myths about HIV/AIDS.

The interesting thing about Rae and her relationship with social media is that she isn’t just an activist who uses social media to spread her message. She’s known for it. She’s been a recipient of both the British Academy Golden Tweet Award in Public Service for 2010 and the 2011 CBS Chicago Most Valuable Blogger in Medical, Health and Fitness. Rae even held the first HIV/AIDS Tweet-Up in the US in July 2010 and organized a Twitter Book Club. Despite these accomplishments in the social media world, Rae is still being reprimanded for her tweets on Twitter.

Whether or not I agree with the organization’s decision to rescind Rae’s honorary membership is completely irrelevant to this posting. However, there is a moral to this story. There are negative consequences that come along with certain behavior that’s exhibited on social networking sites no matter who you are. You simply just can’t tweet what you want without any consequences, which brings me to our familiar lesson of day: Watch what you tweet.

Below check out the video blog Rae posted discussing the situation:

You Can’t Twitpic Everything

Peyton Manning, former quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, had dinner at Angus Barn in Raleigh, NC on March 2. At the end of the night he was charged $739.58, which included an 18% gratuity. He also left an additional tip of $200. How do we know? His server twitpic’d the receipt. 

Here’s the kicker… the server was fired for it. According to The Triangle Business Journal, the owner of Angus Barn, Van Eure, was livid. Eure was reported to have said that the restaurant has a very strict policy when it comes to the privacy of their customers.

As much as we think that our social networking accounts are ours, and we think we’re free to do with it what we please, we have to realize that we can’t. I love looking at twitpics as much as the next person. It gives us this insight to people’s lives. I mean come on, knowing that Peyton Manning tipped his server about 50% of what he paid for dinner is pretty interesting. However, it’s not interesting enough to lose your job over.

I know there’s not a set in stone written guideline about what you should or should not twitpic, but I’m asking that the next time you pull out your cell phone to take a quick twitpic to share with the world, ask yourself is there any way that the picture you post could negatively come back to you. If not, go for it! If you have some hesitation that there’s just a little, tiny possibly that someone might not be too fond of it or that it maybe comprising someone else’s privacy, you just may not want to post it. I’m sure Angus Barn’s server wishes he hadn’t posted his.

Top 10 Tweeting Commandments! (Thanks Glamour!)

To some people, social networking and media sites are nothing but a space to vent and a way to keep up with friends. Truth is… with most companies now having accounts on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Tumblr, there’s a certain social network etiquette that we should keep in mind. Social networking sites are linked to EVERYTHING these days! Take the unfortunate fatal stabbing of Bowie State University sophomore student, Dominique Frazier, allegedly by her suite mate, Alexis Simpson. Tweets from both women have been used on numerous news reporting sites to paint a picture of who both of the girls were. Some of the tweets that may have seemed harmless at the time are now be taken into not so good consideration. Blogs have even posted the women’s Twitter names to offer their readers a chance to take a look for themselves.

Glamour Magazine’s latest issue had some really great Top 10 Tweeting Commandments so I thought I’d share with you! Take heed and enjoy!
-e. Hilton

  1. DO have fun and be funny (like Ellen DeGeneres!). Twitter is a great forum for punchy jokes.
  2. DON’T overshare. Nobody wants a newsletter announcing when you’re on your period. (But thanks anyway, Katy Perry! For those of you who missed her tweet last year, we’ll catch you up: “THAT’S RIGHT I’M BLEEDING.”)
  3. DO follow the stars you’d want to be friends with, the newspapers you read, the designers you wear and the websites you get great deals from. It’s the most in-the-know way to be in the know.
  4. DON’T b**** about work. This is not the place (and—hello!—they can see you).
  5. DO play nice. This is a public forum, so don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face—or to a TV camera.
  6. DON’T exceed the tolerable four-tweets-a-day limit. Hear that, Diddy?
  7. DO take this chance to chat directly with your favorite celebs and authors. Sometimes they’ll even tweet you back!
  8. DON’T send anyone a picture of your private parts. Ever.
  9. DO use Twitter to its full potential. It’s been the breeding ground for books, TV shows and political revolutions. You decide what’s next.
  10. And if you know you’re going to do these DON’Ts no matter what we say, then just…make your account settings private, OK?Read More