The Horror of Facebook

Facebook has become a gallery of graphic violence and offensive content. Ben Kennedy tells us why this is unnecessary.

Facebook and Twitter have made the public more informed than ever, whether they like it or not. Whilst this is largely a good thing, it’s also often morbidly depressing. Depressing because it brings all the daily horror that goes on in the world directly to the palm of your hand.

boston leg fb 2

Of course, The Daily Mail also does this on a regular basis. But the difference between the Mail and Facebook is regulation. The Mail has a horror cap which maintains a bearable degree of repulsion so that readers can have the thrill of being outraged and disgusted without actually making them consider blowing their heads off.

Facebook, on the other hand, can’t be regulated, and this has consequences. For one thing, it means that unnecessarily horrific images – which are intended to raise awareness, just like any other media – get thrown around user’s news feeds by people who want to raise awareness of a cause or event.

When the story of the Boston marathon explosion was unfolding, someone thought it was acceptable to share a picture of a man who had his legs freshly blown off (WARNING:  GRAPHIC VIOLENCE); nothing was left to the imagination and it has now been etched into my memory forever.

This image was pointless. Telling me it happened would have been enough to get the message across. In Crimewatch reconstructions, there is a good reason why they don’t actually depict violent crime in a Saw-style blood bath – it wouldn’t inform us of anything new and would be nothing more than offensive to viewers.

It’s not just breaking news stories that lead people to share these disgusting images. At least once a month there seems to be heartbreaking images of animal cruelty that worm their way onto my feed through Facebook ‘friends’ who seem to believe that parading it in front of hundreds of people will solve the problem.

For starters, what is this image supposed to lead me to do? Right, so someone’s posted an image of dogs that have been thrown into a cauldron of boiling water in China (yep, really). I’m now vividly aware that this goes on in the world. Now what? Donate some money? Is that what you did? Of course it isn’t, but flinging it around in people’s faces is payment enough isn’t it?

A shocking example of animal cruelty

A shocking example of animal cruelty

These groups and individuals forget that Facebook is largely used by children, who should never have to be subjected to such horrific images. What do these images do for the 1 in 5 Facebook users that are aged between 13 and 17 other than give them inspiration for nightmares?

From the look of Facebook’s ‘community standards’ page, Facebook show a disappointing amount of apathy to the sharing of unnecessarily graphic content:

facebook graphic content

That’s all they have to say on the matter. Clearly, more consideration is needed for the classification of content. I don’t see why Facebook can’t just allow users to ‘classify’ their posts so that readers at least have the option of filtering out content which they might find offensive, whilst leaving the option open to those with stronger stomachs than me.

Facebook has made raising awareness of tragedy easier than ever – and by and large this is a great thing. But users need to remember that there is an ethical backdrop to what they post; every user is basically a journalist (albeit journalists that generally specialise in digestive biscuits and Geordie Shore). And like a journalist, users need to think about their audience, and what reaction their posts may cause.

Have your say! Have you had to shield your eyes away from graphic content on Facebook? Should Facebook be regulated in some way, or would this compromise freedom of speech? Get involved in the debate and comment below.

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