Are social networking sites and apps just a way of communicating or are they an open door to attack?

12 Oct

We’ve all heard of them: Twitter, Facebook, Formspring, Ask FM, Snapchat etc. but what people really lurk behind their computer screen and are they there to communicate or to insult? In this article, I intend to find out if these sites/apps are responsible for making us feel miserable.

Let’s start with Ask FM. I have to admit that when I first heard of this idea, I thought it was terrible. Why would you want teenagers to open an account and then have people ask them questions anonymously? This is a gateway for bullying. Still, it was popular and people went on to find out answers that sometimes should really be kept private. What worries me is that you didn’t even have to have an account to ask a question; it was a simple case of typing it in and pressing enter. Anyone can ask anyone anything. Of course, this was the whole point of the site but with the anonymity comes confidence and insult, with no discipline. Why not insult that person in your class if you weren’t going to get in trouble for it? There were no boundaries and still aren’t as to what you could ask, how you spoke or what you said. I only need to type in ‘girl kills’ into Google before my first suggested search was ‘girl kills herself over Ask FM’. Hannah Smith, a 14-year-old girl from Leicestershire, killed herself after receiving taunts in real life and from the site. While Ask FM bosses Mark and Lija Terebin, blamed the girl herself. However several major companies have announced that they will remove their advertising from the site following the controversy of this case and others. Another example is of Daniel Perry, 17 from Scotland, who killed himself after allegedly being blackmailed during a Skype chat and previously being told to commit suicide from anonymous people on Ask FM. The site has caused controversy by not having workable reporting, tracking or parental control processes, which have become the norm on other social media websites. However, Ask FM spokesmen responded by stating that they do have a reporting feature and employ a number of moderators to fight cyberbullying. Accordingly, the site has a “sexually explicit comment” monitor staffed by moderators; however, the comments are never deleted, even for explicit threats. This is a major cause of criticism.  Erin Gallagher, who hanged herself in October 2012 actually named Ask FM in her suicide note and said that she had been bullied on there.

Other sites known for causing hate from one to another is Twitter. The press constantly reports celebrities tweeting back and forth taking digs at one another. Notable examples are The Wanted vs. One Direction and Amanda Bynes vs. Miley Cyrus. Amanda Bynes tweeted a picture of Miley Cyrus stating towards her ‘ur ugly’. While Zayn from One Direction called Max from The Wanted ‘Chlamydia boy’ and ‘geek’. While Miley Cyrus wasn’t provoked by Bynes’ comment, she has replied ‘I think it’s all so sad that I don’t wanna add any fuel to that fire. It’s really so sad to me. I was rooting for a comeback until you start attacking me. I just thought it was hilarious that she mentioned my name the moment I was the worldwide trending topic on Twitter. It’s just funny. The moment you’re a trending topic it’s funny how many people want your name to come out of their mouth ’cause somehow they can associate, and maybe they can be a trending topic.’ Not all girls are that strong. However it doesn’t mean that you are weak to let these kinds of things offend or insult you.

And finally, Facebook. Does posing for pictures then uploading them onto Facebook make you vain or is it just a way to make yourself feel good? Dawn O’Porter thinks not that vanity might not be such a bad thing. ‘Well I think it’s terrible that such a negative connotation has been attached to people who like to share themselves with the world’ … ‘But snapping a selfie in a smashing bit of clobber and hoping a few people say you look alright, well that’s just a lovely thing to be able to do, isn’t it?’ (Dawn O’Porter, Glamour Magazine).

‘We cannot change the ever-developing social network era, but we can do our best to help the next generation realise that beauty comes from within.’

Regardless of what you think of social networking, they are without a doubt a way to communicate and if wanted, insult and degrade. Bullying can be such a horrible thing and with the added effect of the bullies able to hide behind a computer or phone screen, it is now much easier and more difficult to know when to stop. Many people don’t show when bullying or teasing is getting to them and the risk is increased when you can’t even see the person. ‘Following the suicide of Hannah Smith, British Prime Minister David Cameron called for a boycott of websites shunning the responsibility for dealing with cyberbullying on their sites.’ But can anyone ever control it? With so many small comments ripping into people, can there ever be a way of stopping people insulting others online? You could ask what we actually use social networks for: just a way of communicating or are they an open door to attack others?

About the writer: Becky has just finished a degree in English and Creative Writing and is very happy with her 2:1. She is friendly, bubbly and just so happens to be the co-creator of Yellow Bunting. She hopes you enjoy it and that you get involved!

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