“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”
When you think about how social media platforms have opened the floodgates allowing anyone a taste of notoriety, Shakespeare’s words seem more like they were uttered by the likes of Nostradamus.
But maybe a more fitting quote would be from a work of equal literary significance, “With great power comes great responsibility.” With every YouTube view, every follow or like on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, we have the power to create and promote modern celebrity.
Rules of the game
We decide who to empower and whose voices deserve volume. And, for the most part, we’ve created something of a social compact between creators and content consumers – and until recently, I wasn’t aware that there were actually enumerated rules to that social compact.
And (again, apparently) rule number one of this compact? Don’t fuck with cats.
I recently came across a documentary on Netflix that shows the consequences of breaking rule number one, “Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer.” I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, because I really implore you to watch the three-part series, but it tells the true story of what happens when an embittered failed celebrity turns to social media to gain the fame they crave… through any means necessary.
The documentary starts with someone filming their sadistic treatment of kittens and posting the footage to social media. Quickly, a group of viral vigilantes makes it their mission to hunt down this madman. This special shows how these Facebook detectives use the power of social media to get justice as the unknown cat killer falls further and further down a pit of human devolution.
In this story, we circumnavigate the globe and get dizzy with the twists and turns of this crazy story…it’s completely surreal and, if it wasn’t true, it wouldn’t be believable. Needless to say, it definitely led me to lock the deadbolt and turn on the nightlight.
Throughout the series, we see the two sides of the social media coin. We live in a world where anyone can distribute their thoughts at a near-global level with little (or no) oversight. And too often we forget just how powerful of a tool this can be. You could use this tool as a soapbox to spread messages of evil, like killing cats. But social media can also allow communities to come together and, in a unified voice, demand justice and promote the common good.
I believe strongly in the idea of freedom of speech, not necessarily from a constitutional analysis point of view, but from a basic human right principle. In the movie The American President, President Andrew Shepherd sums up my position well, “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.”
But this documentary made me question my devotion to a complete lack of internet censorship. If you give someone the right to film and display their murdering cats, isn’t it just a matter of time before someone actually does just that?
But then again, if you prohibit this act of speech where do we draw the line? And who do we empower to make that decision?
Again – I don’t have any answers, but at least I’m asking the question. Check it out if you haven’t yet seen this incredible and true documentary that shows the power of internet communities and the love of cats.