Warning: SNS use may have harmful effects on your self-image, self-esteem, mind, and body.

In class, we’ve discussed different issues concerning teens and privacy.  How they portray themselves on the various social networking sites can play a factor in how others perceive their identities.  But what happens when others become involved in creating your online personality (especially unwanted help)?

A made for TV movie entitled Cyberbully, was made in hopes to “delete digital drama.”  It shows a teenage girl named Taylor Hillridge, becoming a victim to cyber bullying.  She received a laptop for her seventeenth birthday, without having to deal with her mom watching over her shoulder at what she is doing online.  Taylor created a “Cliquesters” page (the movie’s version of Facebook/Myspace), and was soon attacked by her fellow peers.  Her own brother hacked into her account and wrote a sexually explicit status.  People were portraying her as a “slut” through comments on her wall and pictures, and also created a fake video portraying her as being pregnant and selling her body on street corners.   Also, one of her best friends created a fake profile (unbeknownst to Taylor till the end of the movie), where she posed as a teenage boy named James.  The purpose of this was to distract Taylor from another boy in her high school (who she felt he only liked her so he could hook up with her), and make her fall for James.  The plan backfired, and in retaliation Taylor’s friend (as James) posted that he had sex with her and that she gave him an STD.  Because of all the drama created on “Cliquesters,” Taylor attempted to commit suicide (though was unsuccessful).

In this movie, Taylor’s mom was very vocal about her dissent of the use of social networking sites, as we can see in real life as well.  She trusted Taylor to use the internet with responsibility and not to give out personal information.  Every time something happened on her profile, the mother told her to take down the account.  But who is really going to listen to their parents anyway?

Hasinoff, points out that there is this moral panic around adults of what teenagers are doing with their phones and Facebook.  They are worried about their children meeting strangers online who set out to hurt them, based on what teenagers provide online.  But the problem that we found in class with this belief is that we are sensationalizing the few cases where it is a stranger’s fault, and displacing our anger and frustration onto the technology we are using.   However, in the case of Cyberbully, Taylor’s poor self-image and depression, were not created by a stranger, but by those who were closest to her.  Maybe parents should start to realize that perhaps it’s not the technology of Facebook or cell phones.  People put so much emphasis on the dangers of these social networking sites and that users don’t understand their capabilities.  It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee.  Yes, these sites offer the affordances to do such things as post videos, pictures, wall posts, and personal information about ourselves.  But on the other hand (as I have stated in a few of my other blog posts), these technologies do not offer the means of posting negativity on the internet, rather it is the user.

I personally have also had to deal with negativity on Facebook (and I wasn’t even in high school).  A few months ago, I dealt with a bad break up and was starting to develop a new relationship.  One of my closest friends, decided to take it upon herself to air my dirty laundry on Facebook, by posting statuses about my situation and calling me several derogatory names.  I was in complete distraught by everything that was going on, and had a really rough time dealing with the situation.  Of course, my mother believed this was Facebook’s fault, like every other parent quick to jump to blaming technology.  It’s easy to blame the technology over an actual person, especially one who is important to you.  I knew my friend was the one I had an issue with, not Facebook. From that experience, I realized who really is in control of what they do or say online, and what effects might stem from it.

We shouldn’t concern ourselves with blasting Facebook (or other such sites) as the evildoer.  It is all about how we present ourselves, and the way we choose to use these sites.   We need to come to terms that there is no third person effect, we are all affected by media in some way shape or form, based on how people choose to use the different technologies.  People need to take control of their usage and realize that there are consequences, not just for themselves, but for others.

Leave a comment


  1. Anthony Duffy

     /  March 28, 2012

    The drama of any Lifetime, or in this case an ABC Family, movie stems from the moral panic in our society. In the case you presented, the moral panic here lies in the supposed dangers and threats of participating in social networks. What we don’t realize is that we shouldn’t be fearful of strangers, but it is those in our own lives that we need to be worried about. Just as we discussed in class, sexual harassment and predation tends to come from someone already in your life. You show how, in this movie, even those we consider “friends” can wrongly interfere in our lives. The girl’s life was completely destroyed due to her brother’s hacking of her page. Marwick and boyd express that “every teenager wants privacy”. When her privacy got compromised, her social media life began to unravel. As her identity got misconstrued, her online persona began to be established by others instead of her having the agency to create her own self. This so speaks to recent tragedy of Tyler Clemente. Others were exploiting his own identity and when his privacy got compromised, he was unable to survive. Further, you include such a great and insightful anecdote. I would just look to see how this movie, and other films or PSAs relate back to some of the readings. All in all, these examples show how online interactions can affect physical world realities. Great post!

  2. Ilana Dreiman

     /  March 30, 2012

    I think you provide a great example of how we deflect the blame from ourselves and onto the technology. It’s so much easier to blame new technological affordances for new problems in your social and personal life than to really take a close look into what the root of the problem is. You’re so right when you say that people need to wake up and realize that SNSs aren’t evil in their own right, but it is the users who are using the affordances as a tool for spreading mean and hurtful things. By protecting our online identiy–even from those who are closest to us–we can protect ourselves from further emotional stress. In addition to your comment on the Third Person Effect, it also seems like a situation of people thinking, “well that sucks, but it won’t ever happen to me”. I really think that people need to be proactive in conducting themselves in a positive way on SNSs and treat them with a certain sense of wariness, but also come to terms with the fact that the SNSs themselves don’t determine what information gets put out there or how people use them. I thought your personal anecdote added a good sense of relatability to your argument. It furthers the movie’s point as well as what we discussed in class about how the people closest to you are most likely to hurt you when it comes to the online social world. Great post! Hopefully people will finally begin to see this as a reality.

  3. lauraportwoodstacer

     /  April 1, 2012

    Nice text to bring up, and nice comments. Made-for-TV movies DO seem to disproportionately rely on moral panics, don’t they!


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