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Social media can have negative effects

Date: 9/19/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

If there has ever been an example of how social media has had a negative effect on the American public, it’s the reaction that to the selection of Nina Davuluri as Miss America on Sept. 15.

The “Twitter-verse” apparently was awash with comments that included the following (note I’ve kept the spelling and punctuation intact):

• “And the Arab wins Miss America. Classic.”

• “How the **** does a foreigner win Miss America? She is an Arab!”

• “I swear I’m not racist but this is America.”

• “Asian or Indian are you kiddin this is America omg”

• “miss New York is an Indian. With all do respect this is America.”

You see, Davuluri is a young woman of Indian descent. She performed a Bollywood dance number as her talent presentation. She is studying medicine.

One of her fellow contestants, Theresa Vail, Miss Kansas, was apparently a favorite among some viewers. She is blonde, serving in the Army, hunts, and has a prominent tattoo – a first in the pageant’s history.

Already a meme is making the rounds stating she is what a “Miss America” should look like.

The new graphic reminds me of some of my conservative friends on Facebook posting and gushing over a meme that showed a photo of Anne Romney and stating “That’s what a real First Lady looks like.”

One person wrote on Twitter, “man our president now our new Miss America isn’t even American I’m sorry but Miss Kansas I salute you you’re the real American.”

I have to admit that I didn’t realize a scholarship program/beauty pageant for young women was still taken so seriously by anyone any more. If you do a web search you’ll see that in recent years the pageant has had its troubles including not being able to land a network home for the broadcast for several years.

Apparently, for some people it represents something larger. If Miss America is so important can you name the Miss America who just gave up her crown? Without consulting the web?

I suppose the concept of being a melting pot, the idea that this country is a blend of almost every nationality on the plant is lost on these folks who basically continue to see this nation as white and are clearly alarmed to realize that Americans come in a wide selection of skin colors and backgrounds.

I know this kind of racism has been part of this country for a long time and it has been fanned by a number of pundits, especially in the last few years. Ignorance is the cornerstone of prejudice. I think the shorthand approach to information offered by Twitter and Facebook, accompanied by many people not questioning what they see on social media, has made racism worse and more acceptable in this country.

People now want their “news” to be served to them in bite-size bits and trust that what they hear and see is true ̵ after all it wouldn’t be on the web if it weren’t true, right?

What I continue to see on Facebook at least is how people who like to think themselves to be intelligent constantly give a “like” to material that simply makes them comfortable with their own set beliefs.

I understand that as the world gets more complex, our ability to understand it and cope with the stress it brings becomes more and more challenging. Rather than judge people by their actions as individuals, it’s apparent there are still many people who are incapable of doing that. The mental shorthand of lumping everyone of a group together and assigning characteristics to them shouldn’t be part of the 21st century America.

It is however and it’s maddening.

Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.