As someone who has just recently moved to Los Angeles, it was particularly sobering to walk the streets of this city in the hours after the news came of the fatal shooting of Nipsey Hussle. There was a grief and a stillness in the air that was so heavy it threatened to swallow us whole.

His death sent shockwaves across a nation of fans of a man who was not just a father and loving partner, but also an activist, an entrepreneur, and local hero to the L.A., communities that held his heart.

But before we could even wrap our minds around the enormity of what happened, I started to get wind that there was a video circulating on social media of the exact moment Nipsey was murdered.

The friend who told me about it was clearly distraught. But when I asked where she’d come across it – rather than send it to me, she just said I’d probably run across it under his hashtag on my own soon enough and left it at that.

Her restraint in that moment immediately struck me.

Someone had shared something with her that traumatized her, and here she was actively choosing not to do the same to me. There is a thoughtfulness in that gesture that is a lot more rare than it should be.

READ MORE: Lauren London breaks silence after Nipsey Hussle death: ‘I am completely lost’

Over the next few days, more and more people began to complain about their feelings of unease and gut-wrenching sadness after seeing not just the graphic video of Nipsey’s shooting but also the clip of his life partner Lauren London shouting “Is he ok?!” as she rushed into the hospital.

Nipsey Hussle
Nipsey Hussle and Lauren London arrive at the Warner Music Group Pre-Grammy Celebration at Nomad Hotel Los Angeles on February 7, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images)

Their reactions are valid, and speak to an increasing popular trend that I fear is slowly robbing us all of our humanity: the knee-jerk reaction to share “trauma porn.”

For those who are unaware of what trauma porn is,  it can be defined as “any type of media – be it written, photographed or filmed – which exploits traumatic moments of adversity to generate buzz, notoriety or social media attention,” and it has been my experience that trauma porn is particularly rampant when it is Black bodies and/or people of color who are the ones being displayed as victims.

Do I think that everyone guilty of disseminating trauma porn is a bad person? Of course not. But I do think in that moment of sharing it they are often lacking mindfulness, compassion and/or decorum.

And in an effort to empower (rather than scold), below I’ve compiled a quick check list of five things to consider BEFORE posting graphic pictures and videos on social media.

Are there children involved?

Sharing obscene images that involve children is a bad look all around.

This by far should be the easiest metrics to deter anyone from reposting gruesome content, but for some reason it still seems to go over people’s heads.

READ MORE: 5 Brilliant business moves from Nipsey Hussle

Right before Nipsey’s murder he took a picture with a small child, and moments later he was lying bloody on the ground. So now a split screen image of him smiling next to this minor one minute and then laying dead on the ground moments later is all over the internet. And what’s worse is some folks don’t have the decency to even blur the kid’s face out.

We all know that childhood trauma is the sort of thing that will literally follow you around for the rest of your life. So if you have no other boundary when it comes to what you share, at the very least consider this one.

Is someone being sexually assaulted or violated?

Being sexually assaulted is soul shattering enough without then having that assault played over and over for millions of strangers. Much like the point about protecting children, this too seems like an obvious cause for discretion.

Yet for some reason, the same viewing audience that watches marathons of Law & Order: SVU every weekend, somehow doesn’t see the painful irony of them sharing gruesome clips of sexual violation.

Case in point: there was an incident a few months ago where a young woman in Atlanta was drugged and raped on the dance floor of a nightclub. And the morning right after it happened, everyone and their mother was tweeting out the Facebook Live stream of her attack, as if the victim wasn’t an actual human being who had just been assaulted a few hours earlier.

READ MORE: Russell Westbrook dedicates powerful win against Lakers to friend Nipsey Hussle

If you support #MeToo or any other causes geared towards victims but still see fit to share trauma porn — your moral compass needs some Windex and a spit shine my friend, because you aren’t seeing this clearly.

How would you feel if that was your loved one?

I once had a favorite gif of a woman collapsing in shock, that I used to always send as a response to surprising news. It was funny and gave me and my friends a chuckle, so I saw no harm.

But then last year while researching a piece for work, I came across the actual full length video that gif was taken from. It was a news story about a mother, standing at the side of the road as an officer explained to her that her child had been killed by a drunk driver.

Turns out my favorite gif, was actually a snapshot of the most heartbreaking moment in that women’s life. And suddenly it was no longer funny.

I share this story to illustrate just how quickly (and at times naively) we dismiss people’s humanity when it comes to the stuff we acquire and disperse to our friends online. While you can’t research every little thing that comes your way, it’s wise to still remember that there are actual people behind all those popular clips, videos, etc.

So if you find yourself about to share something that you would hate to have shared about you, that may be a good reason to refrain. The Golden Rule works on the internet too. And we’re all just one viral moment away from being a Twitter meme ourselves.

Is this image exploiting a marginalized group?

Like I mentioned earlier, trauma porn always seems to be the most rampant when it’s a Black or brown body being maimed, murdered, abused or exploited. From the death of Emmett Till to the shooting of Nipsey Hussle, there is always this undercurrent of detached fascination when the life of a Black person is cut short and there’s evidence to show them at the moment their future is taken away.

I could write a whole stand alone piece on why that is, but in short – if you support, champion, or are yourself a member of the Black community, it would behoove you not to feed into a dynamic that makes the world accustomed to seeing us as nothing more than slain cattle.

Nipsey lived his life with dignity, a dignity many of his alleged “fans” unwittingly took part in robbing him of just so they could get likes on their page.

Do better.

What is your intention?

I once had a dear friend get incredibly defensive when I vocalized my distaste for sharing trauma porn. Even though I wasn’t talking about him specifically, his reaction made it clear he saw himself in what I was saying. He then waxed poetic (for quite some time) about how his intentions were noble because it was his job to inform his followers of the ugliness in the world etc etc.

I let him speak, and once he was done I simply responded, “You could have done all that without sharing that video. Or at the very least included a trigger warning so people had a choice IF they wanted to see it or not.”

To his credit, he conceded this was true.

But like my friend, many people tell themselves that they have to share trauma porn because it is educational. This is categorically untrue. If your intention truly is to educate, you can do that rather effectively without traumatizing your audience and triggering survivors.

In fact, we here at theGrio collectively take a hard stance on this. When someone has been violated and there’s “footage” we don’t embed it in our stories. Instead we cite our sources, explain what happened in the text of the piece, and let the audience decide just how much explicit content they have the bandwidth to endure (by searching elsewhere).

That is what it looks like to educate with the intention to inform.

But sending a #RIP message in one breath while exploiting someone’s last moments in the next, sends a mixed message of which we all need to be aware. Especially because the families of the people impacted by these tragedies have wifi too, and they’re watching.


Follow writer Blue Telusma on Instagram at @bluecentric

The post Before you share ‘trauma porn’ videos on social media, consider these critical things appeared first on theGrio.

Before you share ‘trauma porn’ videos on social media, consider these critical things

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *