Virtual Connections that can Alter Policies

The article Facebook post about Moultrie Middle School student’s skirt goes viral, reignites dress code debate by Caitlin Byrd describes a social media battle for dignity. Suzie Webster piques after visiting her young sixth-grade daughter Franyo in school to see her school principal Ryan Cumback pulling out a ruler to measure the length of Franyo’s skirt. To Webster, that is sexual harassment. Webster’s rage exacerbates after hearing how her daughter has been personally shamed by her art teacher who believes out loud that she “…looks like you belong in a club…”, (Byrd) although Franyo’s accused “distracting” (Byrd) skirt was later confirmed to be within the school dress code tolerance.


Franyo in the skirt she wore that day.

With permission from Franyo, Webster writes an 818 word Facebook post responding to the experience, wishing to raise awareness / publicize unfair school dress code enforcements, resulting with near 1.2K shares. The abundance of positive feedbacks recurring on Webster’s post presents empathy from the public, whom may or may not have experienced an occurrence alike, showing the internet’s capability to spread emotions. In fact, all 222 current comments on the post shows support for Wester and Franyo agreeing and expanding on the topics raised. (Webster).

Studies have suggested that empathy can be felt virtually. The internet is not what limits the transportation of emotions. According to the article Found on Facebook: Empathy by Teddy Wayne, empathy have different interpretations. The youth of the younger generation are surveyed to show more tolerance for an uncommon phenomenon, e.g., homosexuality, then the older generation on average. Through exposure to social media, people have opportunities to oversee diverse perspectives and opinions while encountering like minds, thus eventually feeling more connected to a broader community. On Webster’s case, her post “has reignited a conversation about issues of gender equality in Charleston County schools and in schools nationwide.” (Byrd) While “…many of the reactions to her post have been positive”. (Byrd) This demonstrates the public’s inclination to empathize with an online thread. Even if one has never experienced a similar occasion, one would care to imagine on the narrator’s expressions.



Another media post example about unfair dress code enforcement.

A 2014 study from the University of North Florida designates a correlation between higher Facebook usage and social connection. Data shows that men and women with a Facebook account are about 110% more likely to spot a friend’s usual stress than those without an account (Wayne). Which could translate to how social media is not a greenhouse for narcissism but a network that builds actual interpersonal connections, both virtually and in real life. By the time Webster gets home on another day, her Facebook is filling up with messages from many other moms and students reflecting parallel experiences (Byrd). Personal stories are shared between strangers who might never intersect if without the internet platform. It is then when the post collects strength when public realizes that unfair dress code enforcement are a widespread issue and it must be attended. For the smaller community, Franyo’s art teacher apologized (Byrd), for nationwide, this issue is brought up to a more conscious level that is less likely to be overlooked.


People comes together and connects through internet

Social media is an easily accessible tool for everyone. It can either build, break, or rewire connections. Depending on its user (who have a choice remain anonymous), the connections can be used to attack, support, or transmit. Webster stood up for what she believes is right, and so did many others scattering around the internet. Eventually, the like minds gathered and form a stronger community, intertwined with personal experiences. Facebook is Webster’s tool to plot social connections which eventually pressured Franyo’s school to apologize and adjust their attitude towards to dress code policy. Relationships built through the internet carries strength, that strength will generate an impact, enough for people to progress and take their position in a broader horizon.


Works cited:

Byrd, Caitlin. “Facebook Post about Moultrie Middle School Student’s Skirt Goes Viral, Reignites Dress Code Debate.” Post and Courier. N.p., 23 Sept. 2016. Web.

Wayne, Teddy. “Found on Facebook: Empathy.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 10 Oct. 2015. Web.

Image References:

Franyo’s Skirt. Digital image. Post and Courier. N.p., Sept. 2016. Web.

Carey Burgess’s Response to Her School’s Unfair Enforcement of Dress Codes. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web.

Ahlefeidt, Frits. Positive Impact of Social Media. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web.

Blog Assignment 5 – Empathy in the Digital Age

Social media is a two-edged sword. In “God That Was Awesome,” Jon Ronson details the experience of Twitter user Justine Sacco, whose tweet about the (im)possibility of her, a white woman, contracting HIV while in Africa got her publicly shamed and fired. Sacco’s experience, while extreme, is not particularly unusual. Almost all of us can relate to having a social media experience go horribly wrong, and we have likely all heard of such experiences becoming short-lived and embarrassing public spectacles for both celebrities and “ordinary” people. At the same time, we’ve also seen social media create huge outpourings of public support and sympathy or empathy among users.

For this blog post, you will find an example of either phenomenon. This should be an example that has generated some form of media attention. You will briefly relate that example, and link to a story on it. Then you will do some research on empathy in the digital age. Unlike your first assignment, this research does not have to be scholarly. But it should in some way address the question of the effects the internet and social media have on empathy and community. Then you will integrate this source into your post by summarizing the author’s position, and explaining whether you think this position helps shed light on the example you’ve chosen. In other words, you may agree or disagree with the author, or you may decide that this example complicates the author’s position without necessarily invalidating it–it’s up to you.

Your blog post should be 500-750 words, and is due by the beginning of class on Thursday (10/20). Remember to cite your sources according to the guidelines outlined on the “Class Blogs” handout.