Friday, March 31, 2023

Watch what you say: The potential implications of celebrity actions on impressionable age groups

MosaicWatch what you say: The potential implications of celebrity actions on impressionable age groups

Staff Reporter

Kanye West’s 18.2 million Instagram followers are a direct testament to his wide-reaching presence on social media. Like many other musical artists, West— now referred to as “Ye” — rose to prominence on social media through an extensive history of promoting his musical discography. However, his social media platform now is a compilation of politically-charged posts, which includes a recent string of antisemitic remarks. 

In early October, West’s online spout of discriminatory nonsense spiraled from his attendance at Paris Fashion Week, where he sported a “White Lives Matter” shirt. On Oct. 9, West’s Twitter and Instagram accounts were locked, after West’s Oct. 8 tweet stating that he would go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.” This is a reference to the military defense readiness scale: defcon. West’s choice of apparel, along with his anti-Jewish tweets, generated anger from users amongst all corners of the internet. 

Consequently, Instagram and Twitter restricted West’s social media accounts. On Oct. 25, Adidas broke its ties with West after agreeing to collaborate on his fashion line, Yeezy. Sure, it’s great that massive corporations take a stance against politically-incorrect celebrities and condemn their actions. However, can these corporate measures rectify West’s behavior?

No, not a bit. 

For instance, in the immediate aftermath following West’s outburst of hate speech, despite being restricted on social media, his following increased rather than plummeted. West’s followers are clearly entertained by West’s derogatory conduct — which is terrifying. 

What exactly are the societal repercussions of West’s hate speech, and who will be influenced by these actions?

Unfortunately, the ramifications of West’s actions are already embedded into our culture, as there are some groups that feel inspired by West’s shameful actions. It is important to note that antisemitism clearly has prevalent ties throughout history, and West is not the originator of these ideas. However, anti-Jewish sentiments should be condemned rather than reinstated by public figures. 

On Oct. 22, a group of neo-Nazis stood on a bridge overlooking a busy Los Angeles freeway to garner the attention of passing traffic. A banner bore the words, “Kanye is right about the Jews.”  The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a major organization aimed at stopping hate speech against the Jewish community, released photos of the group of neo-Nazis raising their arms in Nazi fashion. If West’s remarks influenced grown adults, how far-reaching is his influence on younger populations? Teenagers and young adults are even more susceptible to political manipulation than grown adults, especially online. Additionally, how will the teens and young adults who listen to and may even idolize West be affected by his rhetoric?

Firstly, it is imperative to understand the extent to which teenagers use social media. According to the Pew Research Center, 97% of teens aged 13-17 report using the internet daily. The majority of teens report using TikTok and Instagram, at 67% and 62%, respectively. 

College students do not fall out of this range, with the Pew Research Center also reporting that 84% of young adults aged 18-29 use at least one social media platform. Additionally, 71% of young adults aged 18-29 report using Instagram. These statistics outpace those of teenagers, so don’t be mistaken, college students are still at risk of being influenced by politically incorrect rhetoric. 

Consequently, it is extremely concerning to watch the rise in antisemitism and hate speech on social media with such a large presence of teenagers simultaneously browsing these platforms. 

A report from the Center to Counter Digital Hate reported that 714 posts collected containing antisemitic statements had been viewed aggregately at least 7.3 million times across five social media platforms including Instagram and TikTok. 

Out of the 119 posts collected on TikTok, researchers estimated an outreach of 2,156,487 impressions, which would average at about 18,000 impressions per post. Though this number may not be extremely significant in the grand scheme of the number of internet users, in retrospect, 18,000 impressions is quite a large number, let alone 2,156,487. Additionally, the report found that 84% of the time, big media companies fail to remove or act on these offensive posts after researchers reported these posts as containing anti-Jewish hate. 

With a prevalence of discriminatory and racist rhetoric bouncing about online, teenagers are bound to encounter these posts. Influential celebrities such as West only fuel the fire, as they normalize this ongoing issue. Therefore, these media outlets simply restricting West does not really alter the impact of his words on the population, as his following is far-reaching and there is an abundance of other antisemitic and racist posts which coincide with and further West’s odious beliefs. 

18.2 million followers on Instagram, 31.5 million followers on Twitter, 50.9 million listeners on Spotify —West’s online presence is a concrete facet of social media. His words and actions are etched onto the social media feeds of millions, and young adults are watching. The extent to which West’s statements have affected younger groups is not yet known, but it nonetheless will likely poison the minds of many of his followers.




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