In an article about acting unserious on social media, a girl lies on her stomach while scrolling through her phone, attached to marionette strings.

Acting Unserious: Has Social Media Become (Even More) Toxic?

While there’s good in its use, the ugly lies underneath.

CW: desensitization, school shooting

Social media has its perks when it comes to its intended uses. Users are able to customize their profiles and curate their pages to their liking, making the opportunity for online friends and virtual relationships to be more accessible. Not to mention, the ease of content being pushed out and instantly shared and reposted with online users.. Especially for the posts that hold, the grasp the social media has on our lives is apparent. Considering all the positives of social media, there are many shortcomings produced from the overuse. Despite the obvious ways social media can be beneficial, the issue of acting so unserious makes its positive elements debatable.

Unclear when this phenomenon began, users have collectively decided to be totally unserious about the way they engage with news stories. The internet now handles major issues with comedy, leaving no topic off limits. Any matter which would otherwise be treated with fragility is treated become the opposite. Platforms that were initially set out to spread awareness or information have now been twisted into a competition of who can make the most laughable meme. Serious topics have been manipulated for the intentions of humor and transformed into butt of one giant internet joke.

One of the major ways social media displayed their apparent disregard for serious news was the missing Titanic submersible, the vessel that had five billionaires aboard and went missing due to mysterious causes quickly plagued the internet. As the news pushed out stories updates, somehow social media found humor in the situation. Rather than treading lightly over the story of people missing thousands of feet underwater, the jokes flooded out.

Primarily, TikTok was used to share and repost thousands of memes and videos. The anecdotes ranged from criticizing the billionaires who willingly boarded the subversive craft to spurring inspiration for a Titanic sequel. The unserious reaction had people treating the matter in an unconventionally lighthearted way, with video after video being shared. These videos were continually reposted onto other platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram. There, even more people were exposed to the internet joke and many joined in.

The way social media users have treated the issue of school shootings proves that no subject is off limits. The rates of school shootings in America reached record numbers for the year. Every so often on a for you page or a trending Twitter topic, jokes about these mass shootings are made. Memes such as “School in America be like…” or even stereotypes of a typical shooter are created and laughed over. The scary norms that American students now face in the school system are yet another victim to unserious content and dark humor. This lack of compassion begs the questions: What level of desensitization does this cause?

Repeated exposure to this comedic material that makes light of more serious topics like mass shootings can be potentially harmful. Consistently engaging with content that jokes about the subject of school shootings can lead users to become increasingly desensitized to any other content relating to this. This lack of seriousness could lead to its own set of issues even when offline.

Regardless of how social media users may feel regarding the submersible or school shootings, the lighthearted memes can be negatively impactful. Rather than sharing opinions or choosing to stay silent, social media users have created an environment where unserious cruelty under the guise of humor is the default reaction to tragedy. These public reactions of humor can be deemed inappropriate and be interpreted as insensitive. Whether creating original memes, liking or reposting – it’s questionable as to whether this type of engagement with “funny” material should be cheered on.

In light of tragic events around the world, it would serve the individuals on these platforms to reflect on what they post. Certain content can be potentially triggering for another person.  Even “dark humor” has its limits, and for some, is considered too offensive.  For many, this humor is deemed offensive. For others it can be a coping mechanism and something to occasionally engage in. The next time you feel like posting a meme or re-sharing some unserious, offensive “comedy” bit, take a moment to think about who you may be hurting. 

Ally Najera, California State University, Northridge


Ally Najera

California State University, Northridge
Broadcast Journalism, Minor in Marketing

I am currently studying broadcast journalism and minoring in marketing. I read religiously and love watching films. I am very passionate about words. I live and breathe pop culture – and love to share my thoughts.

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