Firstly, I don’t like to use obscene language, so during this post I will censor what I deem to be “bad words”, instead I will give a dictionary definition of the word in italics, as some words I refuse to repeat.
It is exam season at my university (and many others in the UK) and it seems that due to procrastination from revision and/or boredom, a number of pages have been created on Facebook, including:
> Tell Him/Her
> Rate your act of having sex; sexual partner
> Spotted promiscuous women of ___
These pages or Facebook communities are ‘affiliated’ (unofficially) with specific universities and often the university logo is the picture that is uploaded with the page – despite the fact that the university has not created the page. These pages allow users to anonymously submit comments and pictures about fellow students, the person who submits a comment to the administrator remains a mystery, but whoever s/he decides to name and shame is not anonymous.
These pages have appeared on my timeline due to a number of my friends ‘liking’ them (as far as Facebook’s logic is concerned, if two or more of my friends like something, then I am surely to like it too). Regarding the first two types of pages in the list, I ‘liked’ them myself in the beginning, and although they had full names in the posts, reading things such as
Patricia Cameron* I love you but you have to stop singing Sweet Home Alabama in the shower.
was enjoyable, a bit of a laugh and seemed to be a continuation of the British sense of humour, where we are able to laugh at ourselves.
However, these pages (Tell Him/Her and His/Her) soon turned into a cyber bullying playground, with users posting things such as
Michael Washington* I have chlamydia, best get yourself tested.
I immediately ‘disliked’ both of these pages as I did not want to be associated as a person who ‘likes’ this type of behaviour on a social media platform. I am actually disgusted at the types of comments that users have submitted about specific people at my university. Although I understand that there is a ‘banterous’ side of the pages and that some people find this type of naming and shaming funny, I believe that this type of public humiliation is an awful thing. With the amount of users that ‘like’ these pages, sooner or later a friend of the person who has been named and shamed has tagged them in the post, giving all users on Facebook a direct link to see what this person looks like and possibly ridicule them, make a judgement or send them more abuse.
The Confessions page encourages users to submit stories which will be published anonymously; I expected the confessions on this page to be things along the line of “Sorry Lisa, I ran out of bread so took two slices of yours and didn’t tell you.” but instead I found myself reading people’s strange (exaggerated) stories purely concerning sexual encounters and drug taking. The extravagance of these stories often makes me believe that they may be made up, but even so, this is not the kind of thing that I come on Facebook to read.
To conclude, I will talk about what I deem to be the most outrageous types of pages that I have seen this week – Rate your act of having sex; sexual partner and Spotted promiscuous women of Hampshire*. These pages actively encourage what I deem to be lad culture, rating people’s sexual performances and posting full names and pictures of people (purely women) who are deemed to be promiscuous. I have never liked any of these pages, but was shocked to see them appear on my news feed as being popular amongst my friends.
I am a curious person, so have looked briefly at each of these pages to see what all the fuss is about. What some people may class as ‘harmless banter’ I class as offensive and laddish (this term I am using to describe the laddish behaviour of both men and women as there are posts naming both men and women on the page). As with the other pages, the person who submits the rating is kept anonymous, but the person who’s reputation is being ridiculed on the page is identified with their full name, with no attempt to conceal their privacy. Despite the admin of this page saying that Facebook users can hide the page from their news feed (as reported by URN on this link http://urn1350.net/blog/pulse/2013/05/rate-your-shag-do-you-rate-it-or-slate-it ) if you hide the page from your news feed, there is no way for you to know if you have been rated on this page, or classed as a promiscuous woman. If the thought of somebody rating your sexual performance behind your back to their friends makes you shudder, imagine having strangers and a minority of students at your university do it publicly on a social media platform.
Facebook allows users to control their accounts with a number of privacy settings but these settings only go so far, and if your name does appear on one of these pages, apart from talking to the admins and asking for it to be removed, there is nothing that can prevent people seeing that post until it is removed (reporting a post as spam doesn’t remove it immediately). I believe pages like this that openly name and shame people are encouraging cyber bullying. As users are able to like, comment on and share the posts and stories that appear on these pages, there is the potential for somebody to gain a bad reputation really quickly.
This form of bullying is unacceptable and actions must be taken by somebody. The problem is, who is responsible for taking action?
1. Individual universities? – Universities are now fully aware of online social media and they should regularly oversee that the students are not shaming the name of their institution. Even if it is not the most prestigious uni in the country, it surely must want to portray a positive image to alumni – past, present and future. They should prohibit the use of official university logos for such pages mentioned above, as they do not promote the ethos of university life that should be promoted.
2. NUS? – The NUS are constantly working to improve life and welfare for students in the UK. I read a very interesting research paper, called “That’s what she said” (link for the full paper and summary here http://www.nus.org.uk/en/nus-calls-for-summit-on-lad-culture/) which the NUS created, it summarises the findings of lad culture in higher education, but more work needs to be done and solutions still need to be found for the rise of lad culture in the UK. Now the research has been completed, further steps need to be put into place to tackle the social issues affecting students.
3. Facebook? – I don’t think that Mark Zuckerberg ever imagined that his social media website would turn into a place where unmoderated pages promote and encourage this type of behaviour. Although these pages may be a minority compared to the thousands of other pages they still affect and upset people, causing controversy.
4. Individuals? – As individuals we are all responsible for what we say, how we act and what we do (on and offline). You can choose to take a stand against pages like this by not submitting stories to the admins, also to prevent the pages going viral, ‘unlike’ them. This will stop your friends seeing it when they log on. We all have experienced how Facebook’s automated system recommends we like things that we do not like (I do not like Kesha or iCarly), and recommends that we become friends with James Kilpatrick* (despite only having one mutual friend). Imagine if your Mum, Dad, little brother, sister, cousin etc was recommended to rate their sexual partner, because you had rated yours…how would you feel then?
Ultimately, it looks like these pages will stay around as long as people keep liking them and submitting stories, ratings, pictures and comments. If you think that it is funny, that is fine, but yes I do judge your sense of humour.
* Names of people and places have been changed.