An Online World: Twitter trend shows importance of skepticism, privacy

The Newtonite

[media-credit name=”Julia Moss” align=”alignnone” width=”617″] An Online World is a blog updated twice a month exploring the Internet’s effects on society and on our lives.
by Leah Budson
Monday night, I sat enraged and shocked, staring incredulously at an article describing Justin Bieber fans cutting themselves to convince Bieber to cease allegedly using marijuana.
According to an article on MercuryNews.com, after pictures of Bieber smoking marijuana were released onto the Internet, hundreds of fans began self-harming, tweeting pictures of their cuts and urging others to do the same. The hashtag #cut4bieber was the top trend on Twitter in the United States Monday.

The way in which the Internet has sparked and spread such a dangerous and ridiculous movement is utterly unacceptable.

The most frightening part of the #cut4beiber trend is undoubtedly the blatant lack of thought in the fans’ actions. Anyone can post on the Internet, and this means that everything one reads should be met with a certain amount of skepticism. The fact that the horrendously illogical idea of self-harming to help Bieber quit marijuana spread across the United States shows that there was not due evaluation of the Internet posts by those who “cut4beiber.”

The #cut4beiber phenomenon began with the lack of privacy granted by the Internet. What Bieber chooses to do in his time outside of his career as a musician should be left to him. If photos had not been posted exposing his alleged drug use, many people would not have been inspired to harm themselves.

This privacy issue is not only relevant to celebrities. I have often seen pictures posted on Facebook, Instagram and tumblr of students engaged in illegal activities such as drug use, a phenomenon which is problematic for two reasons.

When one posts something on the Internet, there is often an implied invitation for people to comment and respond to the post, in addition to explicit invitation to view the post. As seen by the #cut4beiber movement, some can view these pictures as a plea for help or advice. In reality, the subjects of the photos are in no way requesting guidance, and therefore should keep those pictures private.

There is also the obvious issue of pictures being posted without the subject’s permission, as was the case with the pictures of Bieber smoking. Posting a picture of someone engaging in an illegal activity could result in consequences such as his or her rejection from college and a lack of job opportunities. Students must consider the potential ramifications of what they post of themselves and their peers. Although #cut4beiber is an extreme example, it illustrates the potential dangers of the publicness of the Internet.

In the end, this shocking event has taught us two things: people should keep their lives private from the Internet and should meet anything they read online with the due skepticism that it requires.