Adults online, kids on drugs, life on the edge
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Adults online, kids on drugs, life on the edge

By modern standards I live an incredibly boring life. On any given day the most exciting thing that I do is probably change the route that I drive home from work; this is because I live life on the edge.

Conversely the people that I have an online relationship with are living life to the max! Looking at my Facebook feed right now, one guy is at a wedding in China, another is checking into an art gallery, one girl is playing with the new puppy she just bought and someone else is having a profound life experience that can be summed up in a generic quote. I am jealous.

They are all either spending their days in deep philosophical thought, high-flying jet-setters, or are "like literally having the worst day ever!" While I am both envious and proud at the same time of my cyber friends' awesome lives, I can't help but wonder how difficult it must be to have to live up to the last big story in this increasingly social media saturated environment.

The silent cyber screams for attention are deafening. Everyone wants to be heard and everyone wants to come across as interesting. That's how you get the "Likes". And everybody knows "Likes" make you an awesome human being.

Most of the time this attention seeking is harmless. In fact, occasionally social media can be a force for good, encouraging people to lose weight, helping artists showcase their work, or exposing some injustice in the world. The problem is it can't all be good all of the time.

Unfortunately, gratification addiction and the desperate need to stand out from the crowd lead people to make bad decisions.

Take for example the latest video clip to cause outrage among people who forget bad things happen even though there are no cameras around. A man and woman filmed a five-year-old boy and encouraged him to snort ketamine, not once but twice, and then uploaded the clip to their Facebook page.

Let's look over the fact that this is appalling behaviour by an adult and that social services should rescue the child from this abusive environment. Let's also set aside that the woman has since claimed that she was just playing with the boy and that he was really just sniffing flour, even though if that were truly the case the "game" would be equally as disturbing.

No, let us ignore these points for a moment and ask, why on earth was this video uploaded to the internet for the whole world to see? While these actions were obviously carried out by an idiot, are we also seeing an example of someone trying to be "out there" in order to become internet famous?

I'm not saying that there aren't bad people out there who abuse children for fun, but I can't help but wonder, if there was no social media would these people have offered a child ketamine? I mean what do they have to gain? Aside from becoming a 15-minute talking point, this was really just a waste of expensive drugs.

Moving away from this specific case it is also worth asking whether such incidents are good or bad for our society. After all, if nobody ever saw this clip, who knows if something worse may have happened to the child? The same can be said for the story of a prisoner who uploaded a picture of himself shackled up in jail earlier this week.

While the prisoner obviously broke rules in order to promote himself online, if he hadn't posted his picture on a social networking site, police would not have discovered his collection of contraband.

Meanwhile, Pepsi-owned soft drink Mountain Dew is in hot water over what has been dubbed the most racist advert ever produced. The ad, which involves racial stereotypes, a goat and hints of domestic abuse, has clearly been designed to become an online viral sensation. Advertisers, who have never been shy of controversy, are now using social media to bypass traditional media barriers and become popular with audiences.

If an individual makes a bad decision it's careless, but when a public company does it are we facing a bigger societal problem?

It's easy to forget that the social media phenomenon has only been around for six or seven years and finding a solution (if there even is one) could be a long way off. But I'm sure we can all agree that narcissism, fame whoring and confusing risque for offensive are not good things. Again, who knows whether social networking sites are simply highlighting a problem that has been around for years, or if social media is to blame.

At university part of my degree was in media studies, which at the time was labelled a Mickey Mouse subject. Over a decade on and it is clear that studying the media is something that needs to be taught to students at some point in their lives, especially when in 2013 every one has access to and can produce their own media content.

Until we all get a better understanding of the destructive power we hold in our hands there will be more and more idiots clogging up our content feeds with offensive material.

Arglit Boonyai is Digital Media Editor, Bangkok Post.

Arglit Boonyai

Multimedia Editor

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