The Medium Is Still the Message: The Internet to Thank for Annoying Social Movements

Being a decent person is now more complicated than ever–at least Social Justice Warriors (SJW) might have you thinking so. Around 2009, SJW began making their presence known on Tumblr and Live Journal, exposing issues like rape culture and male privilege that were previously flying under the radar. Theses new terms and vague definitions have done more to create confusion and fighting than they have to create any kind of positive social change. Instead, arguments about how to reach equality are bringing out the worst in us. Publicized book burnings and calls for censorship in articles suggest, “When a woman tells you something is sexist, believe her,” as advice to would-be male feminists.There is no shortage of blogs, articles and YouTube videos designed (apparently) to make us more socially sensitive. This influence is starting reach higher places.

Trigger warnings, warnings used at the beginning of potentially offensive videos, articles or photos, are customary in SJW and feminist spaces. Recently though, trigger warnings have made their way to universities across the United States, slowing down and confusing the enriching process of classroom discourse, all in the name of potentially avoiding offending someone.

The spread of super sensitivity has even hit the mainstream. Ban Bossy, the campaign to literally ban the word bossy, has gained endorsements from Michelle Obama, Beyoncé (who appears in the Ban Bossy video) as well as other public figures and celebrities. The word ‘bossy’ it seems can be used in a derogative way to describe women with leadership qualities. Good intentioned, the campaign leaves a couple of nagging questions, like: what other words should we ban and what other social safe guards should we create to ensure that our future leaders don’t get their feelings hurt?

Just like we cannot alter our physical environment to guarantee everyone’s safety, we cannot safe guard speech so no one is offended. Trying to do either would only serve to confine us. No matter what someone sets out to achieve, at some point you have to take a chance, even if it means risking the sting of a scrapped knee or the sting of being mildly offended.

Perhaps we should not blame SJW or extreme feminists entirely for the spread of hypersensitivity. The works of Marshall Mcluhan, more than 30 years after his death, still provide a relevant lens in which to understand the way the Internet affects us:

“The medium is the message,” by which he means the content in our media is insignificant compared to the affect that the medium itself itself has on us.

Today, the Internet has given us access to unlimited information and the ability to share how our thoughts and opinions instantly and conveniently. Is it possible this new connection has made us more reactionary, given us more to complain about and more reason to be hypercritical and hypersensitive?

From the radio, to the telephone, to the Internet, the trend of increased connectivity means we invariably lose our privacy. Whatever’s next might help us find out who is sincere and who is just making noise. Whatever’s next might reveal a true connection that was there all along, even to those we find incredibly annoying now.