Social media gets the blame for a lot of things — cyber-bullying, the rise of the selfie, hashtag-shaped potato snacks (really, Birds Eye? Really?), and the popularity of Justin Bieber. When something happens that embarrasses or concerns today’s society, Facebook is often the scapegoat.
Take the Neknomination trend, for example. Teens around the world have been nominating each other to drink lethal amounts of liquor, uploading the videos to social media, and tagging (or “neknominating”) their friends. At least four have died.
In the U.K., the Local Government Association is suggesting that Facebook and Twitter take some responsibility for this by posting warnings and removing videos. And in the same way that Tumblr was blamed for the death of 15-year-old ballerina Tallulah Wilson, and Ask.fm was blamed for the deaths of several teens, including Hannah Smith, last year, many people are choosing to blame Facebook rather than addressing the real issue. One parent even wanted to charge Ask.fm with manslaughter.
But this isn’t a social media problem. Posting warnings or shutting down websites isn’t going to stop people from doing stupid or cruel things on the Internet. There will be other platforms, and there will be other trends. What needs to change is the way we talk about them with children. The way these trends are discussed in the media is only exacerbating the problem — kids know that drinking an entire bottle of gin in 30 seconds is stupid, and that letting anonymous users ask you questions is asking for trouble. Keep telling them that, and it becomes a challenge, not a warning.
While it’s true that social media facilitates the viral spread of these harmful trends and crazes, trying to shut these platforms down because people misuse them is like trying to sue Domino’s for making you fat.
And social media isn’t all bad. In response to the Neknomination craze, users have begun posting RAK (Random Acts of Kindness) nominations, and are encouraging each other to do good deeds and share them with the world. This just goes to show that it’s not the tools that are the problem — it’s how we choose to use them.
Readers: Have you seen any Neknomination videos in your News Feeds?
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.