On the heels of Mary’s thoughtful post about the increasingly provocative and unprotected “cesspool” that can be social media – “Prostitutes, Pimps And Pedophiles: The Dark Side Of Twitter” – comes news about a Twitter trend in a similar vein.
“Makeout Twitter” accounts are becoming rampant across U.S. colleges, with schools as diverse as Harvard and Louisiana State University promoting student-run Twitter accounts devoted to sharing “creepshots” of intoxicated, lip-locked students.
Even BuzzFeed caught on recently, posting the 16 most popular of the Twitter makeout accounts.
Interviews with students across the country whose schools are unofficial hosts of makeout Twitter streams imply that the great majority of the student population is amused by the trend, writing it off as appropriately and excusably provocative for college.
Anna Mccann, a 22-year-old Ohio University student, told her student paper, “It’s racy. It’s what you do when you drink. I don’t think it’s a big deal. This is college.”
But what happens when, come senior year, it’s time to apply for a job? As Cheryl Hallman, associate director of the Rutgers University-Camden Career Center, told Metro in an article called “Kiss and tweet: Is new ‘makeout’ Twitter trend a total overshare?”, up to 90% of employers use some form of social media during recruitment.
Gone are the days of teenage experimentation allowing young people to try new things and mess up without having the results permanently etched into their digital footprint. Can you even imagine if half the things you did as a restless 19-year-old were still around as search results when you Googled your own name?
Rutgers-Camden professor of psychology and childhood studies Daniel Hart told Metro,
“People imagine adolescence as an opportunity to try on different roles, then after some experimentation, to be able to create your own story of yourself in some sense. There’s some speculation about whether social media gives you less control over your own life story. It’s harder to get away from the dumb things you’ve done because everything is documented.”
Some things, however, never change – like teenagers thinking themselves untouchable, and smarter than their superiors. One student said, “If an employer’s going to judge you over a picture someone else took and put on the internet and if they’re hunting that hard, they’re going to find a lot worse.”
The Makeout Twitter trend is just one piece of a larger puzzle that spells digital disaster for today’s youth. The generation that had a cell phone number in middle school, and learned how to play Angry Birds before learning to tie shoelaces, may not miss the days of diaries and pinkie swears to keep verbal secrets.
But when they lose out on a job opportunity, a date, an apartment lease, or any other adult commitment, because of a tweet or a blog post or a sext from their younger years, they may second-guess the digital freedom they so embrace now.
Lastly, what is Twitter’s responsibility, or the schools’ responsibility, in curtailing potentially damaging online activity like these Twitter makeout accounts? Here on AllTwitter, we’ve documented several high-profile lawsuits in which Twitter has become entrenched – anti-Semitic tweets, defamatory personal tweets in Australia.
Twitter clearly states its Guidelines for Law Enforcement here. As it stands, there would be no grounds for someone to contact Twitter and ask for one of the makeout college accounts to be removed.
However, if a single tweet on one of these accounts could be construed as libel, there would indeed be grounds to pursue legal action – but against whoever is running the account, not against Twitter itself.
Do you think Twitter should be taking actions to monitor potentially damaging activity like these makeout accounts? Do you think the universities need to be cracking down on their communications policies? (Especially given the fact that, as reported in the Metro article, Temple University assistant vice president of communications Ray Betzner hadn’t even heard about Temple’s makeout account when he was approached by the reporter.)
Chime in below.
(Image via Shutterstock)