It’s Not That People Are Getting More Offended These Days. It’s That They Have An Audience Now.
It all started when I was reminiscing with my friend, Sarah, over pictures in a late ’70s photo album, realizing the photo album cover was the same one I had in my family growing up. The cover depicted a beach with 2 children; a little blond boy in a sailor hat standing on top of a little girl, so he could reach the water fountain.
And I realized the same picture would never be used now because it probably would be trending as #stopkeepingwomendown #doyouwantyourdaughtertreatedlikethis. Or something lame like that.
And then I got to thinking of other things that wouldn’t fly anymore that used to be OK; like the old Coppertone baby and dog billboard might as well be a class action lawsuit these days for distributing child pornography to a mass audience.
Remember that woman who had overheard a mother and daughter giggling about plus size clothes in an Old Navy, and the woman, who was plus size, felt offended (even though they weren’t talking to her or about her), fled to her car and sobbed, called her husband to vent, then went back and took a picture of herself in the ugly tank top and posted it on Facebook?
Pre-social media, this is what would’ve and should’ve happened:
She would’ve went to her car to sob and call her husband. Then she would’ve driven home, but not before first stopping at a fast food drive-thru and ordering two of everything on the menu.
Then she would’ve come home, ashamed at herself, collapse into bed, and vow never to binge like that again. Her husband, if he was a nice fellow, would tell her not to be too hard on herself, and suggest she start a weight loss program if she felt that bad. And hopefully this low moment might propel her into a healthy direction, and she would realize to stop blaming the world for her problems.
But instead she did something “brave” and posted a selfie. And the validation poured in. She missed out on a life lesson because the internet gave her a collective pity hug.
I don’t believe people are any more or less sensitive now than they used to be. People have always been offended by aspects of pop culture, politics, advertisements, etc. What has changed is the overly-offended have a stage now. They can bitch in real time to strangers and attempt to pied piper you into their manufactured outcries.
I don’t believe we have a generation of easily offended people, but I do believe if this kind of validation keeps up via social media, we will create a generation of emotional lightweights. And that, I find offensive.