Watching real-world violence online

Last night I saw an incredibly disturbing video on Facebook. A friend had commented on the video that was on their stream, so it hadn’t technically been shared by any of my Facebook friends, but simply appeared because of the comment.

The video was of a man beating (kicking repeatedly, punching, hair-pulling) what appeared to be a woman on the ground. Disturbingly, the video also had two young children in it, who appeared to be attempting to subdue and stop the man. The children were clearly distressed.

I initially started watching the video thanks to Facebook’s instant video play, then it was a about another twenty or so seconds before I could work out what was happening, another twenty seconds shocked by the violence of what was happening, and probably another twenty seconds stunned that this could even be real. I didn’t finish watching it. I was sitting with my 15 year old son who was also distressed by what he saw.

I’m stuck with two thoughts:

Firstly, how long before the rest of my Facebook network begin sharing this video? Not everyone  (and this includes me too on occasion) of my Facebook friends applies common sense or filters before they share content. The high volume of ridiculous meme images and nutty conspiracy rubbish is testament to that. The ripped leotard image that is currently doing the rounds also reaffirms my lack of faith. What does it say about you/us, that you/we would share this video? It’s important to note that the video was accompanied by non-English text, so for me, being only English speaking, there is literally no context for what is happening. How does the world benefit from people sharing this video? It’s not funny, it’s not ironic. It doesn’t make you feel good. You can’t even say it’s a thoughtful video that makes you think because there is no text or contextual information. It’s clearly NOT a PSA.

I’ll admit I’ve shared some shitty stuff in the past, but this video is so incredibly violent, mesmerisingly so.

Secondly, what impact does this video being online have on the people who were actually in the video? We don’t know their names. I’m assuming it was a husband, wife and their two children. After watching the video you’re left wondering if she survived? And if so, what physical and mental scars does she now carry? How old were the children when this happened and how are they faring now? How have they been impacted by {probably} their father’s violence? How have they been impacted by their father’s violence being recorded and then shared around the world?

Is the world a better place for this video? I think not.

Dragonista recently wrote of the horrific images from Gaza and other conflicts, that are consistently appearing in our streams. I have to agree with her position.

I agree the world should bear witness to the atrocities being inflicted on innocent children, women and men. I acknowledge that graphic images can help jolt the comfortable western world out of its complacency when it comes to such violence.

But in using such images we must as a society be mindful of the real harm that actual depictions of violence and death can also inflict on those of our own communities who are vulnerable and at risk.

By all means draw attention to the inhumanity of war and other violence, but please retain your own humanity by protecting those who would be harmed by its depictions.

Surely, there is no good in the constant viewing of real world horror – whether it be still or moving image.

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