By Shelbie Lynn Bostedt
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Shelbie Lynn Bostedt provides us with a succinct roundup for 2016 of the highs and lows in the world of social media.
Social media can be a dark and twisted place, full of your high school friends cranking out their seventh kid and your aunt spouting horrifying political beliefs.
Occasionally, this dark negative energy manifests in more poignant and malicious ways than just just annoying you with the announcement of your second cousin’s third marriage.
This past year was a particularly stirring year on social media given the political and social climate of 2016. We saw presidential candidates meme’d and trolls throwing caution to the wind and really embracing just how awful they could be.
Here is the worst of the worst of social media in 2016.
What happened: Actress Leslie Jones was forced off Twitter after being horrifically harassed by trolls for her involvement in the all-female “Ghostbusters” reboot. These Twitter douchebags really leaned into the whole “being awful scum of the Earth” thing, tweeting out her driver’s license, passport and private photos.
Moving forward: Fans–or humans who have any sort of heart or sense of humanity–began tweeting in Jones’ defense with thehashtag #LoveForLeslieJ. The social media website took notice of the harassment and released a statement condemning the behavior and encouraging the reporting of any perpetrators. So-called “alt-right” (a white nationalist movement) commenter and leader of the trolls Milo Yiannopoulos is banned from Twitter as a result. Soon after, Twitter announced the introduction of a “quality filter” for all users. Later in the year, Twitter rolled out other tools and features to crack down on abuse and hate speech.
Elsewhere: President-elect Donald Trump continued to angrily tweet about anybody who criticized him in any way and then went on to snub Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey while meeting with other heads of social media ahead of his inauguration. Oh, and photos and links no longer counted toward a tweet’s 140-character count. But still no edit button. Thanks for nothing, Dorsey.
What happened: Since Facebook’s inception, it’s been a cesspool of political battles and trash-talking whenever any controversial news makes its way into the public psyche. Typically, these debates are backed by at least semi-educational sources, but thanks to non-credible websites and Facebook’s initial reluctance to control false information disseminated across its platform, fake news quickly became the king of the feed.
Moving forward: The influx of these completely fabricated news stories was said to have influenced the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. It was such an issue that even President Obama weighed in, saying, “[Active misinformation is] packaged very well and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television.” Zuckerberg and Co. announced an initiative to quell the tide of fake news by creating partnerships with fact-checking websites and adding indications of which stories may not be factual.
Elsewhere: Facebook has tried to dip its foot into the Snapchat arena by promoting live videos. They also changed their algorithm to fight clickbait, focus on updates from family and friends, and highlight informative posts.
What happened: Snapchat, Snapchat, Snapchat. Somehow, the temporary picture messaging app didn’t get the memo that blackface, or any filter that appropriates a culture, isn’t cool. Not only did the app feature a filter that transformed users into Bob Marley–complexion included–it also released one with stereotypically East Asian features and makeup.
Moving forward: Snapchat removed the offensive filters as soon as people began speaking out and now seems intent on sticking to flower crowns and puppy faces, but it’s only a matter of time before something racist happens again.
Elsewhere: The app recently added video chatting and group messaging. Woop-de-doo.
What happened: WHAT HAPPENED? Instagram turned our entire world upside-down, [bleep]ing up a perfectly good algorithm based on most recent posts to whatever the hell it’s doing now. It’s anybody’s guess if you’ll see posts from people you care about, or if you’ll end up in a passive-aggressive fight with your best friend for not liking her really cute selfie because you didn’t see it. Oh, and there was this thing where women were consistently shamed for posting pictures of their bodies.
Moving forward: There’s no fixing this algorithm mess. They can add stories a la Snapchat all they want, but this won’t repair the damage they’ve already done.
Elsewhere: Oh, yeah, did we mention they’re directly copying Snapchat? They added stories and live video in a desperate attempt to make Snapchat obsolete. Which, if Snapchat keeps pulling racist crap, might actually work. Instagram also allowed their seldom-watched videos to be up to 60-seconds long and allowed users to mute comments. Suck it, haters.
What happened: Vine died. It’s gone. That’s all.
Moving forward: There’s nothing to move forward to. RIP.
Elsewhere: Your favorite Vines probably exist in a 15-minute-long compilation somewhere on YouTube. Godspeed.