RALEIGH COUNTY, WV (WVNS)– As the Russian Army continues to invade Ukraine, raw graphic images are flooding social media like never before.
It seems nonstop, raw images of bombs, combat, and civilians in peril flooding social media feeds. Now more than ever access to content from journalists and local people is available to the public almost instantaneously. The concept of exposure to war is not new, however, as images from the conflict in Vietnam, 9/11, and other violent acts have flooded household televisions in the digital age. The difference now is the grotesque imagery is unfiltered before being presented.
“Most of us have had the luxury of not having to see war and conflict up close and most of the violence we encounter whether its nonfiction or fiction is in many ways sanitized. We’re very accustomed to seeing Hollywood-type deaths on screen we’re not accustomed to seeing what injury and death looks like,” said Dr. Jimmy Ivory.
Dr. Jimmy Ivory is a professor of Communications at Virginia Tech. He studies the effects of digital media. He said that platforms like Twitter and TikTok that rely on user-generated content take away the filter that previous generations had when it comes to real-life violence.
“All that gatekeeping goes out the window now that citizens have the opportunity to share firsthand views of conflict but also a lot of raw video,” Ivory added. “I think people are seeing more troubling imagery on things like Twitter, TikTok, everything else. It’s unfiltered, nobody’s making the decision about what people should see.”
He said that access to content has benefits too, though. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is using the platforms to communicate to his people and the world has helped keep them informed quicker than ever before. Ivory also believes the threat of catching war crimes in real-time will prevent atrocious acts from happening in the future. But, as we move forward with social media as a major player, Ivory said global government leaders and the various platforms’ top executives will have to monitor and regulate how far raw content can go in future conflicts.
“We’ve had social media involved in conflicts before,” said Ivory. “Social media played a big role in some of the Egyptian revolutions a decade ago, in the Ukrainian revolution in 2014 but never so much video as this. I don’t think we know what it’s going to do to all of us but I don’t think the people growing up seeing it are going to forget it.”
Dr. Ivory said one small study suggested that people exposed to unfiltered imagery of violence in their news were more empathetic to those directly affected. However, he added more research needs to be done on the subject before it can be taken as fact.