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The Dark Side of Viral Videos

In recent trend of social media, viral videos have become an international sensation. From my own perspective, people rave over these videos because they connect with their inner-emotions and make them feel better about themselves. Take Sloan for example (video below), an individual who was born deaf and finally received hearing at the age of 29 through the Cochlear implant (CI). While this is a heartwarming video that can brighten the day of many, it’s important to acknowledge those who don’t qualify for the CI. As a recipient who have recently gotten my own Cochlear implant turned on, I did a decent amount of research and stumbled upon an article, written by Lilit Marcus, concerning Deaf people (with the capital D). Marcus encourages people to inhibit the amount of viral videos since they have an unfavorable effect on some people.

People who are Deaf are diagnosed with a hearing disability where the disability heavily influences their political and cultural standpoint in life. In Marcus’ article, she explains the negative side of viral videos: “…viral videos aren’t about the people who are in them, they’re about the people who watch them.” While many Deaf people are stumbling upon these CI turn-on videos, they’re feeling negative emotions rather than positive. This is due to the stereotype that CI “cures” the hearing disability. Which it actually doesn’t, it just enhances the hearing significantly. So not only do Deaf people feel stereotyped in seeing these videos, but they also feel left out since most of them do not qualify to have the CI. Although Marcus is incorrect on a small detail where only hearing-born adult and deaf infants, up to the age 5, can acquire CIs. The spectrum of who qualifies for the procedure is quite exhaustive.

When it comes to assessing the norms and patterns of the media, it is important for thought leaders to analyze not only the positive effects but also the negatives. Up to the point of finding Marcus’ article, I personally thought that getting the CI turned on was a beacon of hope for everyone who is deaf and Deaf. The viral phenomenon offers excellent ways for people to witness miracles, but there are others who are not able to relate to them.

Connor Ames @jcames14

Emerging Media Graduate Student

Loyola University