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.