March 11, 2011

Killer Facebook

Filed under: Uncategorized — publicandprivatespace @ 4:23 pm

Teenagers are known to have the most issues with pressure and cyber bullying on Facebook than any other age group. Researchers have found that this is because this age group is just beginning to start searching for themselves and their unique identity while simultaneously feeling the need to conform. I myself have had issues finding my unique identity in American society while still trying to have a sense of belonging and relation with my Indian parents.  Because my parents grew up in a very conservative society in India they do not really understand why and how teenagers behave in America. Though I wanted to please my parents, I felt the desire to conform and belong with my American friends at school. It has been an ongoing struggle to formulate a personal identity that is a fusion of both my Indian heritage and the way I grew up in America. Because of my own experience, I can relate so well to teenagers who find that their life is a struggle between feeling a sense of belonging while finding a personal identity. They join social groups in hopes of feeling accepted and safe but then find it difficult to maintain their personal beliefs and values. Many teenagers tend to link their personal identity to the desire to belong through Facebook.

In an attempt to find their identity, they go to others for a sense of belonging and to gain an understanding of who they are. In adolescent minds, if they are part of the popular group then their personal identity would be that they are a good-looking, well-liked individual. This is why teenagers are the most susceptible to feeling the pressure to fit in, keep up, and ensure they are not excluded from the conversation on Facebook. When someone calls a girl a “dumb rich girl” on Facebook, that girl begins to believe that she is forever labeled. She begins to feel that since the entire world can see her profile page, the rest of the world will see her as a dumb rich girl. Socialization is the primary priority for teenagers who feel pressured to have an identity. This prioritization leads to teenagers associating their self worth (or personal identity) with their activities on Facebook.

The issue of teenagers linking their self worth to their Facebook page has had tragic consequences. I came across stories of three teenage girls who committed suicide after being embarrassed on Facebook. One of the girls, Holly Grogan, jumped off a bridge into a busy highway and was pronounced dead at the scene. Her parents and friends say that she had zero confidence after her “supposed” friends turned on her and began to leave nasty posts on her Facebook wall. In a similar case, another teen in England, Megan Gillan,  overdosed on painkillers after being bullied for a long period of time on an English social networking site called Bebo. The last girl, Pheobe Prince, was harassed on Facebook after she caught the attention of the school’s all-star football captain Sean Mulveyhill. She was not only physically bullied in the hallways of her own school, but she also received posts on her Facebook wall telling her to go hang herself, which she sadly eventually did. The worst part is that even in death, Phoebe Prince was bullied; her memorial page on Facebook was not left untouched by her tormentors.

These girls serve as an example of girls whose self worth had been obliterated due to the way people saw them through their social networking accounts.  The words posted about them on a social networking site were enough to push these girls to end their lives so early. Their suicides serve as an example of why teens are not ready to handle the consequences of Facebook.

By Devina Mehta

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