Online opprobrium doesn’t rain much harder than it did upon a young woman from Alabama after she tweeted a selfie from her European vacation last month.
The outrage was not without cause: she had photographed herself, grinning, at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, appending her post with a blushing, smiley emoji.
Breanna was roundly condemned on social media, with more than 6,000 angry tweets in 24 hours, according to one count.
But as reprehensible as the post first seems, it could be more complicated, writes Caitlin Dewey at the Washington Post.
As Breanna explained in responses to the anger, she made it to the camp exactly a year after the death of her father, and the Holocaust had been one of the last subjects they’d studied together. It was, in the words of one online supporter, therefore a “bittersweet moment”.
And so for Breanna, it was perhaps an “instance of self-documentation — I was here; this is who I was that day; this happened.”
The tweet is, clearly, grossly insensitive, Dewey writes, in a balanced appraisal (compare this strange “defence of” from Vice) but “maybe an Auschwitz selfie can also be a sincere — if misguided — kind of tribute”.
The tweet was picked up by the usual online outlets, says Dewey, because “there are pageviews to be had, and money to be made, in shaming dumb kids with Twitter accounts … regardless of how dated and unexceptional the tweet, or how complicating their back stories.”
Maybe it would have been more accurate to point out that this isn’t an isolated incident, but a greater sociological phenomenon — and one that deserves real consideration. Maybe, just maybe, it would have been more rational to realise there are other responses to things we don’t like online besides dumb outrage, and that even the internet’s most obvious villains might have reasons for their mistakes. But consideration and nuance aren’t clicky — and Internet outrage has no place for humanizing details.