Social Media and the Need for Grace

| February 26, 2019

Not only does social media promote instantaneous information, it also allows for instantaneous reactions. People make judgments based on a single post, article or video, and their responses are often harsh.

As a social media-driven society, snap judgments and emotional twitter wars are an expected part of our online world. Everyone feels justified in giving their opinion on the internet, but we need to remember that grace is a vital component of social media interactions.

Kindness and courtesy are traits rarely used on controversial social media posts, yet they are fundamental to positive discourse. The world is full enough of negativity—grace in judgement is one small way for people to change their approach on social media.

The case of Jussie Smollett is one such issue. Smollett claimed he had been attacked on his way home Jan. 29, according to a New York Times article. These claims were later called into question, and Smollett is now facing allegations that he staged the attack himself.

People quickly claimed the attack as a hate crime when first publicized, and now they have just as vehemently spoken their disgust for Smollett’s alleged actions using the hashtag #JussieSmollettHoax. The internet has not been kind. Smollett’s Twitter feed is full of comments demanding he be imprisoned and confess to staging the attack himself.

Thus far, nothing has been proven against Smollett, and though he has not yet been convicted of this crime, the backlash—on both sides of the story—has been brutal. Smollett has been written out of the show he was starring in, and many are calling for his imprisonment.

People blame Smollett, the Chicago Police Department, Trump, racism and many other things for the situation, and as new evidence continues to come forward beliefs and allegiances continue to shift. The discourse on this subject is graceless, and however the case of Jussie Smollett turns out, people have been hurt and damaged by the vitriol on social media.

Grace is so important, especially when it is easier to spread unthinking or hateful words on social media. Conversations about issues like the Smollett case on social media tend to quickly devolve and are rarely ever helpful in the long run.

Whether Smollett staged the attack against himself or not is up to a jury, not social media users. Yet because of social media, everyone feels the need to weigh in on issues. But the responses to viral issues say less about the issue at hand and more about the commentators’ characters.