Catching Up: Social Media, the law, and Millennials

This article brings back to our realization that the world of social media is largely a wide open space where just about anything goes. In my opinion, social media had done the world a great service, as a societal trope of globalization, it has broadened the pallets of communicators and has caused the generations to think, share, and consume in new ways. Sadly, this includes the things we look down upon, such as these highlighted instances of what is ultimately criminal, and wrong.

Although I believe such behaviour is simply base, immature and repulsive, others may argue that the very nature of Snapchat is it is impermanent — photos snapped to others being only viewable for a brief time. As such, I can very see the logic of how Snapchat is the perfect platform to share a moment of something seemingly comical with the aim to bring laughter to others without a permanent record of such a scene, regardless of its content.

However, the law in the US does not view it this way, according to this article, and we can understand why. Subjecting someone, especially someone who is not aware of they are being photographed to ridicule or making a spectacle of them is simply wrong.

I’d theorize that most young people using Snapchat would not concede that their snapping of a scene is tantamount to taking a picture. Why not? Because it isn’t automatically saved. If they wanted to take an ‘actual’ photo, they would just use the camera app. While with Snapchat, it will disappear, as such, if the snap is a compromising scene, no harm will be done as nothing is ordinarily saved. This is a dynamic close to Snapchat’s heart, having been its unique selling point (USP) since it’s birth 5 short years ago, with no signs of changing. So, I’d argue, the probability is high for the youngest millennials, who were adolescents at the time of the platform’s inception and initial height of popularity, who we know are using the platform heavily. In a study, Social Media Examiner and ComScorefound that 76% of millennials (ages 18–34) use Snapchat. This is HUGE. This contributes to the whopping 100 million daily active users sending more than 1 billion photos and videos every single day.

I would theorize, it is my generation who perpetrated (will continue to do similar things) the offences detailed in NPR’s article. I would further say that this is not because us millennials are inherently misguided, but more accurately as we have grown up with the proliferation of social media in our teens, it has integrated in a unique way Into how we expressed ourselves during those years of evolution and maturing. Now in adulthood, as millennials are have been acutely challenged to learning new and ever evolving mores of social media etiquette while we watch our parent’s generations, also experiencing the world of SM anew, like Columbus discovering the New World. They, having only been introduced to this within the last 10 years (specifically Facebook, circa 2004, 12 years ago), as the late majority (late adopters — see Law of Diffusion of Innovation) , are even further behind the 8-ball in learning the rules and codes of digital citizenship and stewardship, which as millennials, we are authoring.

With that said, the laws governing how use social media in our society, are and will continue to play a long game of catching up. As the largest group of content creators and content consumers in the history of the world, we too will continue to violate the space and privacy of others, and press hard against the boundaries of decency as we continue to parse through the reality that social media is real life and just as substantial as the physical. We are not there yet, but in time, we will learn.