How social media impacts people's lives - WFSB 3 Connecticut

How social media impacts people's lives

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Experts warn that social media posts could haunt you forever (WFSB) Experts warn that social media posts could haunt you forever (WFSB)
HAMDEN, CT (WFSB) -

Eyewitness News looked into how the Internet is becoming a place for public shaming and where one incident can cause public humiliation.

Luke Gatti was a student at the University of Connecticut when police said he became intoxicated and demanded macaroni and cheese from a dining hall. In the video that went viral, Gatti is seen pushing the manager before being arrested.

Following the arrest, the incident took on a life of its own.

"He has received death threats and suicide encouragements,” David Kritzman, who is Gatti's attorney, said. “His parents have been vilified. They have been condemned by total strangers."

Kritzman said the 19-year-old is still afraid to leave his house. Kritzman said there's no question what Gatti did was wrong, but his punishment far exceeds what took place in court.

"I would not want a camera depicting my worse moment, memorialized for an indefinite future,” Kritzman said.

Rich Hanley teaches journalism at the Quinnipiac University, and said "Snark and hate are partners on the internet. They go hand-in-hand because it's easy to post stuff about other people because there are no consequences."

Hanley said the internet gives people a voice and they can be anonymous.

"There really is no room for rationality. The acceleration of time and the distance no longer exists,” Hanley said. “They can say whatever they want about anybody with great speed and efficiency. And they do it in a hurtful way without considering the facts."

Take what happened when Kate Brown took a picture of a dog with tape wrapped around its mouth and posted on Facebook.  Within seconds, an internet attacked and the hunt to find Brown began.

The incident caused outrage and lead to Brown’s arrest on animal cruelty charges. But, Brown wasn't the only one to be condemned. 

"I was astonished when I looked at Facebook,” Martha Hickey, who is the owner of the animal grooming business Doggie in the Window, said. “How could people even arrive at this."

Hickey said she was accused of animal cruelty. The only connection was one of her employees had been friends on Facebook with the dog's owner. But, they hadn't talked in 20 years.

One tweet blew up the life of Justine Sacco. A New York public relations executive, who was on her way to South Africa to visit family.

Right before boarding a plane she tweeted out "going to Africa. Hope I don't get aids. Just kidding. I'm white!"

When she landed her phone had exploded with vicious texts calling her a racist.

She had become the number one worldwide trend on Twitter. What she thought was a joke ended up getting her fired and publically shamed.  

"The downside of the internet is that everything is based on emotion and the moment. And it’s ephemeral,” Hanley said. “If you think it won't last, it will and will come back to haunt."

The reality of social media is everything a person says can be held against them. The shaming can last for years or maybe even a lifetime.

Social media experts advise thinking before posting to Facebook or Twitter.

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