As Lent began, Pope Francis suggested something modern for people to give up: being mean on the internet.
“We live in an atmosphere polluted by too much verbal violence, too many offensive and harmful words, which are amplified by the internet,” the pope said according to Reuters.
As someone who checks social media daily, I would agree.
We at Scroll discourage using social media to degrade or insult others. We encourage people to use social media to uplift others.
It doesn’t take long to find mean comments, messages and insults on social media. That’s why Jimmy Kimmel’s “Mean Tweets” segment is a big hit among viewers. That’s why social media posts are instant material for talk shows.
The internet has become the schoolyard. One person calls someone else a name while bystanders laugh and make jokes in the background. Other bystanders pick sides, starting the name-calling all over again. As soon as the news hits social media, people that are frustrated or disagree immediately flood the comments section with negative reactions. Every time a controversial opinion article is published in Scroll, we wait in anticipation for the comments.
Cyberbullying numbers are equally concerning. According to the Pew Research Center, 59% of teens in the U.S. reported being bullied online, and 42% of teens have been victims of offensive name-calling.
When I started my social media accounts, my parents challenged me to post things that match my standards as a Latter-day Saint. They also challenged me to post things that I would be proud of if a potential employer looked at my profile. I’m glad I listened to them, and I would pass on the same advice to others.
It wouldn’t hurt to consider Paul’s counsel to the Ephesians when we post on social media. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers,” Ephesians 4:29.
I’ve seen the effects of positive social media usage. I check it daily to communicate with friends, coordinate responsibilities at work and ask questions to classmates. I also use it to learn about breaking news and the world around me. Over the past few months, I’ve read articles that have changed my perception and thinking and that have helped me understand more about my classes and my future profession. I’ve also received nice compliments from strangers, something that always brightens my day.
In a blog, Common Sense Media said that teens who use social media had more freedom to express themselves, felt less isolated and made more friends. Social media has also opened the door for crowdfunding, helping charities and entrepreneurs. Additionally, it informs the public about community events and service opportunities.
Social media does not have to be mean; it can uplift people. As users of social media, it’s our responsibility to make it better for everyone.