I posted this piece over on The Eye Roll Diaries today, but I feel it is too important not to share here as well. Our kids collect friends on social media sites that they really have no connection to and it can be horrifying when a young person cries out for help and these so-called friends respond. I hope you will read and share if you feel the desire. Thanks, Diane
I love social media as much as the next social media lover. It is a great way to connect and stay in touch with friends and family both far and near. It gives one a chance to share, support, encourage, laugh and cry along with those we know, care for and love. As great as social media can be, however, there is a downside…a very dark and disturbing side that I had the misfortune to witness firsthand recently.
The dark side of social media I’m referring to revolved around a young man who was posting rantings about a girl and desperate cries for help on a social media site. For a few days I monitored his posts because I had a personal connection to his rantings. It was obvious this young man needed help but I honestly wasn’t sure what to do. I tried to search his friend’s list in hopes of finding one or both of his parents to notify. Though I was not friends with this young man his profile was public and I was able to see what he was posting although the only friends I could see were the ones we had in common, even though he and I were not friends.
As I continued to read his rantings, I noticed a definite downward spiral for this young man as his rants become more intense and he began posting youTube videos intended for this young woman, which left me fearful for both of them. It was heartbreaking and frightening to see someone so young pleading for help, so angry and threatening to take their own life. It was even more heartbreaking and horrifying to read the comments from this young man’s so-called “friends” (teens and young adults) encouraging him to do so. It was a disgusting, unbearable sight to witness and I knew I had to intervene.
After speaking with my husband, we felt it in everyone’s best interest to report this young man to the social media site. Following the guidelines established for reporting suicidal postings we contacted the social media network and the suicide prevention hotline. We were not able to find his parents’ information, but the social media site was very quick to react. Within a matter of hours, my husband received a message from the young man’s mother stating her son was getting the help he needed.
This incident left me disillusioned about our teens/young adults and social media. Are the young people of the world so disconnected socially that they do not realize there is a real live breathing human behind the keyboard and the posts? Where was the compassion and empathy for this young man by his so-called friends? Judging by the majority of comments I read it would appear there was none.
After speaking with a few young adults I know it seems part of the problem comes when our teens/young adults allow social media friendships with people they do not know. Seriously, does anyone really have 700, 800, 1000 friends they know well enough to allow into their personal life? If so, I’d like to tell them what a lucky individual they truly are. I would like to think this is the entire problem, but sadly I don’t think it is.
A lot of our kids and teens are social media addicts spending enormous amounts of time connecting, checking-in their locations and revealing personal information all in a very public setting with people they don’t really know. Though I love social media and spend a good deal of time on it myself it’s different for me. See during my childhood and teen years I actually had to communicate face to face to make friends. Even then it took a very special friend to reveal your deepest thoughts, dreams, hopes, desires and secrets to. Our teens/young adults do not have to make that human connection to consider someone a friend and that’s what concerns me.
I guess what I’m trying to convey is I’m worried about our kids and the dark side of social media. I’m worried about the callousness of young people encouraging other young people to end their lives or egging them on when they are obviously crying out for help. It’s a horrific thing to bear witness too and a real eye-opener for me as a parent.
After this incident, my husband and I had a long conversation with our kids about friends who aren’t really friends and what to do if they witness a real or social media friend crying out for help or causing distress to someone else. There are social media guidelines for this type of thing and my hope is if this situation ever arises for one of my children or yours they will have the courage to step up and intervene by reporting the behavior or telling us parents so we can do so on the child in trouble’s behalf. I believe it we haven’t already done so it’s time we get out kids and teens involved face to face with their peers and the community on a regular basis and out from behind the keyboard.
What are your thoughts? Share with me in a comment. I’d really like to hear from you.