Social Networks' Bad PR Week: Girl Gangs and Snotty Teens
Ah, nothing like crazy teenagers to ruin a social-networking site’s week!
Of course, a lot of the attention last week was aimed at MySpace, which had only a very peripheral role in the appalling story of a gang of teen harpies from Florida who viciously laid into another and videotaped it.
The unfortunate girl–whom the female wolf pack (to be fair, wolves are a lot more intelligent) was heard accusing incoherently in the video–had apparently posted something on MySpace–owned by News Corp. (NWS), which owns this site–that apparently ignited their rage. Thus, the genius leader of the half-dozen girls planned on posting a video of the beat-down to MySpace and also YouTube (GOOG).
The parents of the beaten girl, who was severely injured in the incident, urged the sites to prevent users from uploading the viral video, even though it was never uploaded by the teens and has been regularly taken off the services when it has been.
(I could not find the video on either service last night, except in snippets as part of news coverage. It is available on Salon here, and can also be embedded, which I decided not to do here.)
Still, the injured girl’s father was quoted in a local newspaper: “As far as I am concerned, MySpace is the anti-Christ for children.”
Actually, the gang of girls get that particular moniker in my estimation. In any case, justice will be meted out, I am sure, and it started with the judge’s order that the defendants not use any social network.
And while it got a lot less attention, don’t miss New York magazine’s riveting story of a Facebook scandal at New York’s tony Horace Mann private school.
In the piece, titled “Testing Horace Mann” by Gabriel Sherman, Facebook is used as a vehicle for disgruntled kids to create obnoxious groups attacking teachers they don’t like in verbally appalling ways and without any apparent recriminations.
Laid out in exquisite detail are how petty school politics, overindulged kids and parents who need their heads examined collided to create the digital equivalent of “Lord of the Flies.”
Here’s the money quote:
These Facebook pages, however, were something different. Kids have always ragged on an unpopular teacher or ridiculed an unfortunate classmate. But sites like Facebook and RateMyTeachers.com are changing the power dynamics of the community in an unpredictable way. It is as if students were standing outside the classroom window, taunting the teacher to her face. Should they be punished? There were, as yet, no rules or codes for how a school should address such issues.”
While it is pretty obvious that it is easy to blame the technology in both these cases, there are bigger societal issues at stake here that nothing MySpace or Facebook can fix with a simple tweak.