We need to raise questions about how we interact with social media and consider the major and new challenges raised by it in which we have so quickly been drawn into. We might think that our skin – and that of those we care about – is thick; but just how thick is it?
It’s not just ISIS beheadings, it is also Steven Stephens uploading of a video of himself killing Robert Godwin Sr. It stayed on FB for over two hours. Three years ago, Vester Lee Flanagan, aka Bryce Williams, recorded video of himself shooting two former co-workers. Last year the Chicago police arrested four people for allegedly torturing a teen and live streaming the incident on Facebook. There are plenty of examples.
Can we simply ignore the Blue Whale Suicide Challenge videos with over 150 committed suicide as a result? Are you aware that there are legal obstacles to allow this to be treated as a crime, and even more difficult, to actually prosecute it, due to the evident frontiers among countries? Hence, it’s time to ask the right questions.
Social Media – A Contributor To A Crime?
What we are aiming at is your equally important free choice when it comes to what you choose to read or look at. I am all for that freedom too – oh, why do I have to say this, a sign of the times? – but I do encourage everyone to consider whether we are exercising that right and if think you do, to ask ourselves to what extent we are doing so, what´s the impact of what one posts and – equally important – what we read and/or share.
Too many concerned parents are just not able to control it, even if they try hard to do so. Others do not seem to understand the potential impact of what their kids watch.
Since the 1960s there has been an exponential growth in data that supports the notion that the greater exposure to violence is a psychological threat to the viewers, especially children, and teenagers. There is sufficient evidence to support that social media has contributed to violence among young ones, even underage teenagers. This is no news and it should surprise no one. Yet, not enough is done about it and the statistics reflect this. Too many concerned parents are just not able to control it, even if they try hard to do so. Others do not seem to understand the potential impact of what their kids watch. Take, for instance, violent video games. Small kids often can´t differentiate fiction from reality, so when they shoot with their console it´s not hard to understand that their constant exposure to that of violent participation can lead to, given the opportunity, the place and the means to do so.
But this is not all I was actually referring to when I started writing this.
The “New Porn” – Social Window To The Naked Mind
Social media is our new social window to sub-consciousness. And we are often the unwary receptors of whatever feeds penetrate our minds. All of what we “munch on”, even those quick bites of other people´s mental nakedness, something reminiscent of those tabloids and celebrity magazines with paparazzi topless photos, but magnified to actually seeing the previously hidden, but now open, mindset.
How Magnified Is It?
This leads us to Social Media users being Content Producers and Distributors. This is what I refer to as The New Porn. It can be referred to as a form of “Porn” since according to theorists three factors or short-term effects are linked: The priming process (a neural activation process), an arousal/stimulus effect and then a mimicry-type of observational and learning neurological process, the latter with a particular impact on children and teenagers, though not only. This type of “porn” includes pre and post-crime confessions, often bragging about the criminal acts and gaining massive audiences. This is what is commonly referred to as Performance Crimes. We might have hard through the news of some examples, but sadly enough some have experienced it from closer hold.
We have a growing number of examples, some of them with worldwide repercussions. From kids being involved in bomb threats, filmed murder and rape, inciting to commit suicide, and a whole range of trendy border-line criminal actions to which “we” watchers are invited/incited to copy and re-post, sometimes with a spiral type of competition leading to injuries or even death. There are even some supposedly harmless trends that are anything but that. Or haven´t you heard of the Cinnamon or the Salt and Ice challenges, or the Eraser the Warhead challenge, the Condom snorting challenge, or the apparent riskless Chubby Bunny challenge. The list is long and the dangers can and do often get out of hand.
But beyond these dangerous trendy competitions, there is outright crime. Whether it´s the “informed consent” or the “uninformed” type of Performance Crime, the element of “performance victimization”, often with public humiliation, adds to the celebrity status cult. Social Media has allowed the undressing of the unconscious personality and a multiplication of copy and paste pathological behaviour.
This new porn unleashes a new type of social behaviour. It´s therefore not just fake news that should be on the headlines.
Researchers in psychology and sociology refer to this as a dialectical process leading to new types of interaction and social consciousness, to the point that it´s changing the way people think and act. Whatever traditional and older schools of thought we choose in the Philosophy of Mind most accept today that the idea of oneness between mind and body.
Not Just Up To The Criminal Justice Agencies To Deal With
Evidently, all of this has a direct impact on how crime and justice interact with the society. Criminal justice systems and related law-enforcement agencies face the challenge of dealing with this, not just to identify and prosecute offenders, but to find appropriate prevention mechanisms that deter offenders from creating negative social impact, even at the cost of not being able to identify crime offenders. The task also involves social platforms and all of it without infringement of one of the most cherished rights in free and open societies.
But there are quite a number of new challenges that have appeared too quickly, without warning and without effective means to control. First of all, there is the constant change in the nature of the information surfacing on the media. Mobbing and harassment, victimization, revenge porn, identity theft, victim-blaming, social media has quickly taken down barriers. One way for each and every one of us to contribute is to stay away from social porn and when coming across it denounce it, in some cases to the authorities. We can also be more careful in how we chose to communicate, in both content and format, and also in what we read and share with others. We, adults, have to teach by example. There is a lot to do in this area, and we can´t leave it all to the authorities, to our children, or to wishful thinking. This type of “new porn” can be addictive and is hard to tell who is more likely to fall prey to it.
Social media is here to stay; the more reason to be adamant about becoming aware of its potentials and dangers and about taking social responsibility. All of us are being targeted and it won’t go away by simply ignoring it.
Author Note: By social media, I am not only referring to Facebook. Hence; Facebook is not particularly “targeted”.