Could the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," actually be true?
According to an Associated Press/MTV poll, today’s youngsters routinely use slurs and offensive words that they would never say aloud over texts and social media, and most of their peers simply shrug it off.
The nationwide poll of 1,355 young people between the ages of 14-24 was conducted August 18-31. 71 percent of those surveyed said that racial and sexual slurs are more common in text messages, e-mails and tweets than in public or in person. Ironically, only about half of the young people polled said they are likely to ask those using the offensive language to stop.
“They might be really serious, but you take it as a joke,” Kervin Browner II, a twenty-year-old African-American Michigan native, told the Associated Press. He says that the demeaning words are usually targeted at women, not minorities, but although he doesn’t like to hear people offended, he doesn’t protest when his friends use the words on Twitter. “That’s just how it is,” he said. “People in their own minds, they think it’s cool.”
Based on the survey results, it appears that Browner’s opinion is not exclusive. 51 percent of those surveyed said that they encounter discriminatory words or images on social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, and 57 percent said the biggest reason people use such language is because they are “trying to be funny.”
Those sayings may not outrightly be offensive, but some believe there could be authentic, hateful undertones in some of the words. About a quarter of those surveyed said that people use the offensive language because they “really hold hateful feelings about the group.” Additionally, 40 percent said they see the “n-word” being used against people in on-line communication or text messages, and although only 44% said they’d be offended by it, 60 percent of the African-Americans surveyed said that they would be offended ““by seeing the n-word used against other people.”
Calling someone a “retard,” “sl*t” or the “n-word” aloud has always been grounds to start controversy, but perhaps users of viral, offensive language feel more comfortable insulting via keyboard because they know they will not be reprimanded.
Either way, it may be time not only for home training, but social media training, too. Never should we be comfortable using racist and sexist slurs, joke or no joke.
To contact or share story ideas with Danielle Wright, follow and tweet her at @DaniWrightTV.
(Photo: REUTERS/Adam Hunger)