With what happened to the recent murder of a colleague in the industry, this story in particular, hit too close to home. Similar to those who are actively engaged in social media, I am tempted to share such news on my various social media accounts. However, there were a couple of things that stopped me.
Ethics. Sensitivity. Respect.
I am deeply saddened by his death, and condemn the murderers who are responsible. However, if I share such sentiments, what good will it bring? Will it bring back his life? Will it give the man and his family peace?
As a media professional, news like this are DELICIOUS. And as human beings, we are wired to share, share, share. If you’ve had the privilege to work with, or were close to the victim, more so the appeal of sharing it on your Facebook walls. It takes a lot of self control, discretion and strength to NOT SHARE. It may get attention, but give it a few months, his case will be shelved.
The question to ask oneself: What is your purpose of sharing such information? What good will sharing such an information bring your audience/readers? It all boils down to intent.
The horrors of terrorism which include rape, extortion and murder are far, far too real, especially in this industry we all call home. Such horrors shouldn’t be taken lightly, nor carelessly shared on social media. By sharing news of his beheading and posting pictures of such a violent crime, will only encourage more acts of terrorism. You may actually be making another insurgent/terrorist happy by sharing his “masterpiece”. Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm.
Realize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than public figures. Weigh the consequences of publishing or broadcasting personal information. The man murdered was a private individual. He no longer has the power to say no. Respect that.
With his decapitation, the images are next to useless, creating a culture of indifference. The “viral” sharing risks a sense of emptiness, creating a “numbing” effect, to shock without informing, to feed a form of slacktivism (a kind of “armchair” activism, which does not require great effort or commitment and involvement).
“I published a post, shared a photo, etc. I am at peace with my conscience, I received my amount of likes, and now we can go on with the photos of the vacation or the comments on the football match.” It is good to know that in a context such as this someone has decided to become the custodian of the awakening of consciences (again, this is the most popular explanation among those who choose to share). Or is it subtly to glorify oneself?
But the question to be asked here: will there be any concrete positive effects?
One thing is certain: if one really needs a gallery of dead bodies to become aware of the human suffering that exists around us, then we have a big problem. It can be risky in the long run to convince ourselves of the need to use death for a purpose (no matter if it sensitizes, informs, sells, etc.). There is a risk of addiction. Think of the hundreds of newspapers with photos of decapitated people? It’s entertainment.
We cannot ignore the banality of the horror included in the “save image” and “share” command. Don’t you think we’ve had enough of the panic, fear and intimidation these terrorists have sown in our senses? The buck should stop with us. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity, even if others do.
I long for common decency, respect and humanity. Rest in peace John. May you be the last in this industry.
For more information about this post, please see my references:
Journalist’s Code of Ethics
Ethics of Sharing in Social Media
Social Media Curbs or Promotes Terrorism and Violence
To share or not to share