It is sad and unfortunate that social networking sites are manipulated to create something other than good. The social media sites we have discussed in class clearly show much potential and benefit; keeping in touch, finding jobs, promoting world change, and many others. However, as Levinson alludes to in his “Guns, Knives, and Pillows” lecture, everything has its counterpart. Many social networking sites, especially those that include anonymity, provide easy access to cyberbulling, online taunting, cyber stalking, and other forms of virtual violence. Levinson mentions that bullying in a physical place is more dangerous than bullying done over the internet. It may in fact be considered more dangerous because it can involve physical intimidation, but I honestly don’t know which is worse. In my opinion, it all boils down to self-confidence and self-esteem. Those who bully, whether in a physical or virtual environment, have low self-esteem and feel a sense of gain by making others feel worse about themselves. Bullies who use anonymity on social networking sites are simply cowards. Of course, I have sympathy for those bullied and teased. However, even the individuals who allow themselves to feel defeated by these faceless bullies also have low self-esteem. Everyone gets teased at some point during their life. And although that doesn’t make it right, it’s just a part of life that you have to deal with appropriately in order to overcome it. Consult a guidance counselor, talk to a friend or family member, delete your account for some time or permanently, take time to yourself, etc.
While reading Levinson’s chapter, I thought of a newer social media site called, Formspring.Me. If any site is promoting cyberbullying, it’s this one. The homepage of the site says “ask questions, give answers, learn more about your friends.” The site allows individuals to search for users, friends or not. You then submit anonymous questions to the user. “Ask me anything.” From what I’ve seen, people are not shy to do so. Once the user answers the question, it is posted on their personal page. The layout is similar to that of Twitter. In my opinion, you are simply asking for hate mail. The site says “learn more about your friends.” But if the people were truly your friends, wouldn’t you just ask them yourselves? Why would you need to do so anonymously? I know some people who have accounts, but I really don’t see any appeal. There is actually a Facebook group called “Boycott Formspring.” The group currently has 7,196 and is growing rapidly. Many posts advise parents to educate their children on the site and prevent their kids from creating an account. The group asks to “spread the word, stop the hate.” Just another example of a social networking site used to educate and promote change.