This morning in Baghdad, bombs killed seven people. Earlier this week, ISIS posted another video of a young boy executing prisoners. Every day, civilians in Syria, Gaza, West Africa and Ukraine find their lives threatened from extremist terrorist groups, political instability, rapidly spreading disease and intense poverty. And all across the world, children and teens wake with fears of not getting food, education or safety.
Today in Carlsbad, teens woke up with fears of seeing their name on an app. Burnbook.
Inspired by the movie “Mean Girls,” this app allows teens to “anonymously” post comments about their peers, school and community. Through the last few weeks, this app has soared in popularity. But didn’t we learn anything from Tina Fey and Lindsay Lohan? The golden rule?
We’ve seen it before with Facebook, Twitter, Ask.fm, Yik Yak. Time and time again, cyber-bullying has serious effects. The internet is a dangerous place, especially when the power is placed in the hands of insecure, ignorant, adolescent bullies.
When will we learn from our mistakes? Why do we keep posting when people are getting hurt?
Scrolling through the app, users can find explicit posts and comments filled with derogatory phrases, racial slurs and brutal insults. A common trend is posting a single name or rumor and leaving it open for gossip and hate. Bullies entertain themselves by directing comments towards specific individuals and fabricating lies in order to receive more likes and attention.
Under the layer of anonymity, we think it’s okay to treat each other as if we aren’t human beings. Women are being degraded and intimate parts of peoples lives are being revealed, all for what?
Not only are specific individuals being affected, but also the image of our school is being tarnished. How we treat other people reflects our character, and the behavior shown on this app does not paint a pretty picture. We are more than this. We are better than this.
Beyond the moral issues, there are serious legal consequences surrounding the app. Illegal content such as child pornography (‘nudes’) and threats towards schools are not protected under the face of anonymity.
The creators of the app know every users’ IP address and location, and law enforcement can access that information easily. With the click of your finger, anything resembling a threat to the well-being of an individual or school can lead to an arrest.
Police are currently taking action. One student who threatened El Cajon Valley High School was arrested. Recently at Mission Hills High School, another 14-year-old was identified for making threats and is currently under investigation.
A “protective” layer to hide behind, anonymity is really just an illusion. Break down the barriers. Whether it be dissolving gossip, resolving conflicts between friends or taking responsibility for our destructive addiction to anonymity, it’s time to confront our problems.
Actions have consequences, and words have power. We are at a point in our lives where our surroundings play a large role in how we perceive ourselves and shape who we become. We are vulnerable. How would you feel if you were responsible for someone hurting themselves, with just a couple words?
Yes, we have free speech, but there are limits. As a journalism editorial staff, we do support the right to express opinions and beliefs, but we do not tolerate shaming others. No one deserves unjustified, public hate and humiliation.
Social media is a privilege, not a weapon. The ability to connect with thousands of people with the click of a finger shouldn’t be used as a tool to harm others, especially when others are suffering much greater hardships. Instead of creating problems for ourselves and spreading negativity, we should be using the power of technology to respond to real problems, widen our perspectives and contribute real solutions.
If we cannot prove ourselves worthy to handle the responsibility of social media, we shouldn’t be allowed to participate. Stop adding fuel to the flame, let’s wake up tomorrow to a world with less hate. Delete the app, extinguish the Burnbook.