Several of the gender and race-related controversies that have rocked Wake Forest’s campus over the past year found their origins online and on social media. At the beginning of the spring 2018 semester, a freshman admitted to using a racial slur in reference to her Resident Advisor in a video on her “finsta” (fake Instagram) account. Last semester, the Sigma Chi fraternity came under scrutiny when emails featuring misogynistic and vulgar language circulated widely around campus. In the past weeks, outrage on the campuses of both Wake Forest and Winston-Salem State (WSSU) resulted after an Instagram story for a fake Student Government campaign directed racist language towards WSSU.
It is the belief of the Old Gold & Black Editorial Board that too many students use the false anonymity of social media to make hateful and racist statements that they likely would not make in person.
Wake Forest students must remember that nothing is ever truly anonymous online, and everything posted online should be treated as permanent. If you post something sexist, racist or otherwise derogatory online, you should expect to be ultimately held responsible.
Many of the posts that sparked the previously mentioned controversies were screenshotted and circulated widely in GroupMes, eventually reaching the majority of the student body. Finstas and other restricted-access accounts can easily lead to an erroneous sense of privacy, but anything can be screenshotted and widely shared.
Of course, controversy arising from social media posts is not a trend isolated to Wake Forest’s campus. In 2018, multiple MLB players found themselves under fire for anti-LGBTQ and racist Twitter posts from their adolescent years, and an insensitive Kevin Hart tweet caused him to lose his job hosting this year’s Oscars.
In short, facing repercussions for online misbehavior will not cease to be an issue once students leave Wake Forest, and properly conducting oneself online will become continue to be important while social media continues to pervade our daily lives.
Finally, in order to be good Internet citizens, we all must do what we can to erase the comfort some people have in posting hateful comments online. We must fight bigotry in all of its forms, including those found online.