Social media has changed everything about the way we communicate. Communication now on social media is quick and wide spread. Just a click of a button and a message is transferred across the world. We are able to track down long lost friends from elementary school, or reconnect with neighbors who moved away years ago. We can post pictures of our children and grandchildren. We can express our political and religious views. We can share humorous videos and jokes. We can “like” and “forward” slogans and comments about all aspects of life.
Too many of us just simply push the like button and affirm something which seems funny at that moment. We often don’t understand the context, and generally social media doesn’t give us the greater context. Perhaps the sender wants to tell their family members they are sorry. Perhaps the sender wants to just laugh at the end of the day. Or maybe the sender wants to make a comment on our culture and society.
After working with domestic violence victims for five years and spending a life time working with women and children who suffer at the hands of others, I know that my view of the world is often cynical or even biased. I can not help but see comments and jokes through the eyes of domestic violence victims. Too often a casual comment, slogan or joke can promote unhealthy relationships at best or dangerous positions at worst. They confirm what an abuser believes about the world. Sometimes the slogan repeats the justification for abuse. Perhaps coming from a healthy home or a violence free family, the comment or slogan looks like a joke. From my perspective, it is reinforcement for a worldview that says control and power belong to the abuser and that victims should just take it. For example, I recently saw a post that something about true love never letting go. That sounds terrific if you are thinking it reinforces a couple’s commitment to work things out. It sounds horrible if you are being stalked.
One in four women in Texas will be abused by someone who says they love them. Yes, there are many people who live in healthy, non-violent relationships. But far too many relationships only have the public face of non-violence. Behind closed doors, control and power, enforced by threats and violence, are the structure of the family. There are so many things that used to be funny before I started this work that are no longer funny. I never want to give the abuser an opportunity to think that what they are doing is justified, necessary or right. I believe that each of us needs to take responsibility for the messages, literally and figuratively, that we send. It may seem right to us, but in sending the message we are endorsing it even in contexts that we can not imagine. So take a few moments before you hit the “like” button. Does the message promote healthy relationships? Would a victim think it is funny? Does the slogan support the abuser or the victim? Never give someone who is abusing another words that can justify abuse. Some things just aren’t funny or inspirational in that context.
Kathy Reid, Executive Director