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Priscilla O. Yeverino

 

How many relationships have social media to thank?
We have Tinder. We have Grindr. We have Bumble.
We have the dating world in the palm of our apps.

Would we meet these people in real life? Probably not.
Is that a good thing?
Yes and no.

Although social media is sometimes used for good causes such as reuniting siblings, connecting with extended family and meeting biological parents, there’s the underlying caveat that’s been around since the beginning of time: human evil.

In recent news, a female TWU student’s body was discovered dismembered and burning at a park in Grapevine, Texas.
Jackie Vandagriff left a bar with a strange man, and was tragically murdered.
She left a bar less than a mile from where I live.
In older news, Christina Morris’ body was never found, but the man last seen with her was recently charged with aggravated kidnapping. Christina is of course, presumed dead.
She left a bar across from where I work.

Surely, I’m scared. Surely, I carry pepper spray and have police officers escort me to my car.

I picture the girls there, on a bar stool, at a table- as classmates, as friends, as co-workers.

I think my mother tells me once a week to be careful, to be aware of my surroundings, that the same thing might happen to me that happened to them.

My girlfriends say the same, that they don’t go out at night by themselves, that it’s dangerous to walk alone.

But what they fail to recognize is that in both these instances, these girls were not forced in a car, into a home.. not at first anyway. These were not “strange” men, shadows lurking in the darkness. They were not just waiting around, preying on women. They were much, much worse; they were “friends”. They had the advantage of familiarity, or the familiarity that dating apps and social media seem to create- however false and distorted they may be.

Let us say a young girl receives a friend request from an attractive guy around her age. He has his job listed on his page, he has several pictures with friends, he might even have two or three mutual friends. She looks through his page and that’s her way of verifying that he’s “real”.

There are two things wrong with the way this is dealt with:
First of all, she remembers the MTV show “Catfish”. She verifies that he’s an actual, real person, not some weird guy in his basement- but never does it cross her mind to wonder about whether the “real guy” he is sane or not. Whether he would hurt her or not. Whether he would rape her or not. Whether he would kill her or not. Because he’s not the guy in the basement… but also, in a sense, he is. He looks good – he’s the same guy in the profile picture, but she doesn’t know him.
Second of all, social media gives concrete details about a person- and after we go through someone’s profile, we create them into a breathing person- we shelf them in our brain under “cute guy that looks like my ex” or “cool girl that has great taste in music”. We make them into a person, but here’s the thing: being a person does not make you inherently good.

The tricky part is being able to casually wade the eccentricity of dating in this era. We seem to think that because someone seems normal on social media, they are. We seem to judge ourselves social media geniuses. “We are the generation of social media, so we know social media!” We trust the blurb and mystique of the internet too much to focus on details- the details that might mean the difference between life and death.
The main problem is pin-pointing the root cause of the issue: social media, or our own judgement?
Is social media to blame? Or is this theory similar to the gun control argument; “Guns don’t kill people, people do”?
What about being held accountable for our own actions?
We live in a world where bad things happen… should we be overly cautious every time we make new friendships?

The internet is so new in the span of humanity, as are social media websites and dating apps. We see the monster, but we don’t really know it yet.

My strongest prediction is that this will occur much more frequently in the future, so much that it will force communities to create a national conversation, much like timely crimes do.

In the meantime, we can just be wary that pepper spray won’t protect you from someone you don’t think you have to use it against.

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