Steve Stephens randomly killed a retired Cleveland man and posted the video on Facebook. After being pursued by police, Stephens, according to the Los Angeles Times, shared a recording on Sunday stating that he planned to kill someone. Two minutes later he posted a video of him killing Robert Godwin Sr.—a father of ten.
Unfortunately these acts of violence are all too familiar in today’s America. Upon first hearing of these incidents, we are shocked, outraged, saddened, and we question the motives behind these senseless acts of violence. Yet, in a world where nearly everyone has a platform on social media, rarely is there meaningful dialogue on how to prevent such violence.
The occasional substantive posts from credible news organizations find themselves drowned out by irrelevant videos, misguided political rants, and updates on a high school friend’s relationship status. Legitimate updates on current events provide a split-second reminder of what is happening beyond the virtual wall. It is a contrasting perspective to the picturesque virtual world users typically find themselves residing in.
In theory, that wall provides the opportunity for the very same users to engage in thoughtful conversations, send aid victims, and begin to debate the problems that cause such acts—even if it is from the comfort of a patio chair on a front porch. In reality, social media has evolved into a sort of landfill containing past rants and photos with ex’s. It largely contributes to the rampant misinformation that is a byproduct of the 24-hour news cycle.
In the crowded social media landscape, how can a post stand out and tap into the power that hundreds of millions of worldwide users? I don’t have a good answer. However, I’d encourage everyone using social media to reconsider how they engage. Sharing that cat video has a greater effect than you might think.