Thursday, August 7, 2014

Why Teens Shouldn't Have Social Media

I'm perusing Twitter (as I do). I'm stuck on this trending topic "#askacacia." 

It's the #1 trending topic in the United States. 

It's also the #1 trending topic in the world. 




So what's this topic all about?

Usually a celebrity conducts a Twitter Q&A with the hashtag #Ask______ to get their "fandom" (the United Fans of the World) to ask, comment, bond, etc. 

This particular trend brings together two fandoms, 5SOS and One Direction fans, to ridicule and make fun of a teen named Acacia Brinley. 

@acaciabrinley
After looking her up, she appears to be some kind of professional regular person. She dated a famous Youtuber, which gave her notoriety; joined a band, unjoined a band. She has a Youtube channel, over 500K followers on Twitter and over 1M on Instagram; apparently she's getting deals to rock Bongo and correspond from the Young Hollywood Awards. Good for her! She apparently meets a lot of famous people. She's cute. Takes lots of selfies. Basically, normal teenager stuff. And there are blogs dedicated to her. You would think it would be as a form of worship, but her followers appear to follow, if only to ridicule her. 

They know everything about her life: how she used to cut herself; when she posted nudes online when she was 14. And they will forever use that against her.

And sadly, you too can know all of these things about her, just by Googling her name. That's all I did. You won't even have to meet her to know these things.

"#AskAcacia" is filled with photos, jokes and terrible comments about the teen. Everything is at her expense. She's referred to as "trash," "a hoe" and made fun of her looks excessively.




Going through the trending topic, I felt immediate and overwhelming sadness. I don't know how old she is, but I don't think I would have been able to handle consistent ridicule online as a teen. Furthermore, what if that was my sibling? Or my child? I didn't want to even post those Tweets, but I felt it was necessary. Are you kidding me? 99% of these people, these millions (yes millions) of followers don't know her. They never will. They would probably cower if they met her face-to-face, and sadly, I bet some of them wouldn't. I would be distraught knowing my child or my sibling was being attacked; I'd also be heartbroken if I found out what they were doing to be on the receiving side of that attack. I would be more concerned and shattered if my child was a part of the ridiculing. 

Teenagers see social media as an outlet and a way to bond. As do I! And I'm 27. But I also did some idiotic things as a teen that I would never do in adulthood. I didn't drink in high school, and I rarely got in trouble or did anything crazy, but I did do some things that were stupid. Idiotic, really. And mostly out of boredom. Once, my best friend and I went to Wal-Mart at 10:00 PM and bought the most absurd bras we could find, blacked out our teeth with eyeliner and took photos in ridiculous poses. If you can visualize that, you can probably deduce that the photos were hilarious and very clearly unsexy, but in hindsight, that was stupid. I wouldn't want anyone else seeing them! But I had no fear that anyone would see them. I wasn't posting them online, or sharing them with anyone. I would have died if any of my "derp" moments I had as a teen were put on the world wide web for everyone, including my future husband, my future employer... my future children... to see. 

That's the thing, though. I was a teen. I was still learning. There is a reason you tend to live with your parents until you're 18 — you still need guidance. Hell, I need guidance NOW and I'm almost 30! But now I know better. Absolutely no one is perfect or free from mistakes. I get it. I am adult enough to admit that although I was made fun of, I made fun of people, too. Maybe not to their faces, but I'm not sure which is worse. Nobody is pure in that aspect. 

I am so thankful the only form of social media I had in middle and high school was AIM and email, so those mistakes didn't show up for people I know — and people I don't know — to see. I didn't even get Facebook until I started my first year of college (dating myself here — it was back when you had to have a college email address to login). 

Why should developing humans (such as teenagers) get access to post whatever random, reckless, bizarre, inaccurate, hurtful thoughts that come to mind? They're absolutely insane. They're posting the craziest things I've ever seen: selfies at Auschwitz, a complete play-by-play of how one's Dad reacted to her "accidentally" sending him nude photos; tweeting that they didn't realize Titanic was an actual historical event. IT'S MADNESS. Complete madness. I'm sure I had a few dumb thoughts in my head as a teen, but guess what? I didn't feel compelled to share those with the world. And I didn't have the means to, either. (BLESSINGS!)

But now, because of the society we live in, everything is out in the open. Everyone shares everything. I see people roaming the streets of LA with selfie sticks. I watched a woman take a selfie with a grapefruit at the grocery store last week. I've posted screenshots of conversations I've had over text messages. I took a photo of the ramen I ate yesterday. Everything has to be documented, it seems. And I'm guilty of this as well. Heck, I have a blog where I write down all my thoughts for the world. There's this overwhelming desire to share, share, SHARE! Share so we can get those likes and feel important and get recognition. It's fun, sure, but it's also tiring. And at times it can be detrimental.

Many of you might argue that Acacia is a public figure, and she is subjecting herself to ridicule and criticism. I absolutely hate this argument. Just because you want to be an actor, or want to be in a band, and you want people to actually like and appreciate your work (and make money for it!) doesn't entitle the public to give their personal opinion about said person. I see the comments on Selena Gomez's Instagram and it's not only frightening, but I can't help but get a pit in my stomach, knowing she sees some of the horrible, terrible things that people are saying to her. Comments from other women like "die, bitch!" and "you're a whore" and "I hope your baby sister dies." That is truly psychotic. It scares me that anyone could actually get to that place, let alone feel compelled to comment like that on someone's public page. When did it become a human right to attack strangers and speak to them like scum? To commentate on people we don't know in a negative, abusive way?

This is nowhere near Selena Gomez or Acacia's situation, but I remember experiencing online bullying when I was about to start my sophomore year, in 9th grade. I was helplessly crushing on my best guy friend, Wes. He knows this. (Or he should have because it was blatantly obvious). We had a great relationship — my mom adored him, we'd hang out all the time — but he wasn't into me. (I feel like this is a Taylor Swift song.) His girlfriend, also our age, was a cheerleader and very pretty, but looking back, she was very obviously insecure. Blows my mind because, seemingly, she had everything going for her. She was not friendly to me, and I'm sure it was because of my relationship with Wes.

One day, I'm sitting online and I get a message from her friend. I remember it vividly yet not at all. Couldn't tell you the screenname or anything like that, but she started attacking me almost instantly. "This is __________. You're disgusting. You're fat. Wes will never like you. Seriously. Stop being rude to _________."

I barely even spoke to his girlfriend, let alone was rude to her. I mean, for the love, I had a PERM IN 9TH GRADE! I wasn't breaking hearts by any means, and I definitely was not a threat. I didn't do anything to solicit a "you're fat" comment. Except maybe being bigger than his girlfriend, but does that entitle people to throw that in my face? Especially since these girls didn't speak to me in the first place? 

If someone called me fat today, here's how that response would go:
"You're fat."
"Great! Is my said "fat-ness" physically harming you? Then shut the hell up, or stop looking at me."

But when you're 15, it's the worst thing in the world. I remember my vision blurring with tears, getting offline, changing into shorts and a bright pink tank top from Gap, going outside and running around my block five times in the dead heat of Summer. I started eating only tuna fish and salad. I would run for a solid hour on the treadmill while watching the first season of American Idol (yes, Kelly Clarkson's season). I didn't lose the weight immediately, but I was consistently trying to shed the l-bs. Eventually, I moved on from my crush and started my first relationship, and stopped caring about the weight loss.

Or so I thought. At one point, I was 102 pounds. It was a mix of not eating, eating only salad, and breaking up with aforementioned first serious boyfriend about a year later when concerns were raised. ("The breakup diet.") After sleeping through a few days, my mom took me to the doctor. She knew I had a broken heart, but I was also starting to get sick. The doctor let us know my BMI was 16 — severely low for my height and weight. 

I'm not saying this to get sympathy. The point is that I hung on to that weight comment long after the fact. Every single one of us has a moment where we felt humiliated or not good enough, and I dread that my future children will have to experience feeling like that.

Although I know they will. And it's going to kill me. Because kids are mean! 

Before, we would deal with the ridicule at school and could go home to escape it; now there's the internet. And the ridicule can continue long after you've left school.

I've seen so many ridiculous comments on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and I have to wonder what brain cells are missing that allow you to confidently comment about someone, whom you don't know, just because the thought came into your head.

Sure, I have my opinions. I'm not perfect. But I'm not seeking these people out just to harass them! And embarrassingly enough, kids and teens are huge culprits in this, but adults get involved too!

This past weekend, I had some random person, who wasn't even following me, write this on one of my photos. (I tried to remove as much identifying information because I wouldn't want this person to feel upset or insecure by this idiot.)




I went to her page, commented on one of her photos and asked why she felt compelled to do that?




She responded: "because she's fugly." And then took the time to roam through more of my photos to write this:




Good thing I care! And listen, I know she is probably some internet troll. But WHY? Why do trolls exist? And maybe she only has a handful of followers, but what does it matter if she has 3M followers or 33? What's it going to take to make this all come to an end?

Shamefully, this is a grown woman, who appears to also be a mother.

Another example. Here's the comment section from the account of a woman on Bachelor in Paradise:

The second comment is what I like to call "backhanded." Still not okay.
You came to her page to say those things? Seriously? You are adults! And when did "being lonely" become a bad character trait?

So, based on this post, it seems like you actually need an IQ test and possibly an psychiatric evaluation to determine whether or not you should be on social media. As for children and teens,  they don't deserve it. They don't deserve the ridicule, and they don't deserve the freedom to do and say as they please online. They're not fully functioning adults, and they can't necessarily take blame for their actions (although they should at this rate).

Is this a ludicrous statement? Sure. There's no way there will ever be an age restriction on social media. But to me, it makes a whole lot of sense.


1 comment:

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