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An Open Letter To My Friends on Social Media

With the Olympics that happened this summer, I’m sure that you have all watched some of the videos of highlights or epic bromance moments during the Games. However, as I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I noticed one of my friends from residence last year had shared one video in particular. This video depicted the training of young athletes from one country in particular, for an Olympic sport, as being full of “brutality.” The video was posted by the Daily Mail, showcasing training camps where young children are kept from their families and forced to train extreme hours until they are left in tears.

The comments below the video my friend shared were derogatory. Some comments read “that’s disgusting.” Yet another had someone ranting about the notion of forcing previous Olympians to procreate in the hopes of furthering the athletic genes in their offspring and thus increasing the chances of gold medals for their country.

I had a hard time believing what I was reading, at first thinking it was a joke. In order to see if every person shared the same negative sentiments, I went on to click on the link to the original video and read a few of the top comments. Most of them made derisive statements while wondering which images “have been taken out of context to allow people to believe something entirely fictional” or spoke to the “biased” and “unprofessional” manner of reporting based within this video.

Now, I have to say that, normally, I’m not one to enter into arguments over social media nor am I going to get incredibly worked up over what I see on my newsfeed. However, this video in particular hit rather close to home as I have personal connections to the country this video entails and I have close friends who participated in this sport who have told me about the difficulty of its training. I debated messaging my friend and asking her to take the video down, or messaging her to say that I agreed with her comment that the video was disgusting in its portrayal of media bias and unprofessional reporting of the difference between fact and fiction. By agreeing with her, I would purposely misunderstand her reaction of “that’s disgusting” to the video. However, I did neither of these things. Perhaps it was because I didn’t want to message her out of anger or risk losing a friend. But it was more so because I didn’t think I had any right to tell her how she could and could not use her social media to share stories.

For this reason, I decided, instead, to write down my thoughts here, more as a cautionary tale. I’m not necessarily writing this because I know all the ins and outs of journalism, or training for the Olympics, but simply to instill awareness about what you share for the world to see. Although you are not solely made up of your social media, what you post to your social media accounts depicts the part of you that you wish to show the world. Think twice before hitting that share button, before retweeting that witty yet potentially unkind tweet, or before showing your online support through giving a comment or a status a “like.”

If I could see my friend in person right now, I think I would want to talk to her about her decision to share that video. I know she is a kind, gentle soul and hopes the very best for the world; I don’t doubt that she probably shared this video with the best intentions. Nevertheless, I wish I had said something else:

Dear Milly,* I just saw that video you shared about the training of young Olympic athletes. I just wanted to say that I agree; It is absolutely disgusting how the media will take images out of context in order to portray a “click worthy,” unprofessional, story full of bias. While this video may appeal to the humanitarian masses, it defames a country participating in the Olympic Games as being cold and cruel, nay, abusive toward their young athletes. However, it forgets to take into account the fact that certain early development sports require athletes to start from a young age, while also ignoring the training occurring in other countries for this sport. Without including any reliable sources or relative data to compare the training standards across the globe, armed with merely a handful of pictures which could have come from anywhere, I would disagree that this video is a reliable source of information. I think that this video is merely being used as a form of propaganda to distract people from the spirit of the Games and to encourage people to ignore the hard work of the individuals and coaches. All in all, I consider this video to be disrespectful toward the Olympic Games, the country being targeted, and the people who watch inherently believing its message to be true. Please think carefully about what you share, as there are two sides to every coin.

I don’t really believe in being personally responsible for policing what other people do on social media, but I do believe in critical thinking. I believe that there are times when you have a social responsibility to not let others get swept away by opinions which may be misinformed. While there are many videos or articles which may provoke your moral sense to instantaneously inform your entire network, I guarantee that a) there is almost always more than one way to look at something, and b) even if you are entirely correct in your judgement, not everyone is going to appreciate having your opinions shoved onto their newsfeed. Below, I have included a link to the video, in case you wish to form your own opinion on its content.

https://www.facebook.com/DailyMail/videos/1424724430920634/?pnref=story

* Names have been changed with due respect to confidentiality.

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