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Death threats from Syraucse game uncovers a disturbing trend in social media

WARNING: Content may be NSFW.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, the Central Michigan  Chippewas lost a hard-fought battle against the Syracuse Orange, falling by only three points in overtime. Everybody loves a game that goes into overtime, but that's not where the story of yesterday's game went.

Central Michigan defensive end Mitch Stanitzek was ejected for a head-to-head late hit on Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey that resulted in an unfortunate game-ending injury for the freshman.

The hit certainly wasn't necessary, but ultimately it was an unfortunate circumstance that comes with the territory of playing football: a late hit that put the quarterback in danger. Stanitzek was immediately punished, ejected from the game for targeting. CMU would pay for it, as they were already missing junior starting defensive end Joe Ostman to injury.

After the game, reports started to surface that Stanitzek was the target of death threats by Syracuse fans. Devon Spalding, CMU's starting running back, was the first one to say something about the incident, coming to Stanitzek's defense before deleting the tweet (it was screencapped, fortunately). This would mostly be ignored, but dig deep, and you find something sinister lurking in the depths.


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Way to ruin a dank meme, Pat.

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This is @The_Haze5, giving a lesson in how not to react to a college football play.

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This is Niko, who shows us the power that (relative) anonymity can have when it comes to insulting people they don't know and probably will never meet.

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Finally, there is this guy, Steve, who manages to achieve the trifecta. Not only does he out Mitch's personal twitter account. but he also wishes death upon Mitch's entire family says nasty things about his mother and father, who had nothing to do with anything, which is absolutely reprehensible.


What is it about the shroud of anonymity that social media gives the consumer that gives said user the belief that they can say morbid, ugly, wretched, and reprehensible thing to people thousands of miles away without a hint of regret or at the very least, double-thinking it? In an age of unprecedented technological growth where the world has never been more accessible, social media has been greatly abused by its users, making them more anxiousnarcissistic, and even more likely to participate in cyperbullying. In my academic past, I've looked at how news channels and media shape people's opinion-making abilities, and over the years, I have noticed that increasingly, social media is becoming a self-containing echochamber of sorts, which leads to dangerous consequences.

Lost in all of this is the First Amendment right to free speech. While I respect that these users are using a microblog to dispense their opinions, this does not mean that they are not prone to the consequences therein, such as being reported for harassment, or losing a job over the offensiveness of their commentary.

Mitch deserves a chance to talk about the incident that happened in his own time. He does not deserve being personally harassed via his student e-mail and Twitter accounts. Chippewas head coach John Bonamego came to his player's defense in a statement after the game, also saying the call was correct and that he would want it called the same way if it was vice versa, and not one, but four Syracuse players said that it was a "football play".

I know that not all Syracuse fans behave in such a vile manner, but the fact that there were this many to be so publicly vulgar is disgusting. Samuel Johnson once said that "the true integrity of  a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good." (applies perfectly to this situation, no?) The actions these users (and many more) took show a total lack of integrity and makes them sore winners. True fans of the Syracuse Orange should be ashamed of them.

Ultimately, I think a lesson can be learned from all of this: treat people with respect and understand the situation. Be aware that refusing to do so makes you part of a grander problem. And never say anything you wouldn't say in front of your grandmother.