Are online social communities something to fear?

The online social community prior to the expansion of Facebook was dominated by teenagers from the ages of generally 13years- 25years (Larsen 2008). Thus there has been moral panics regarding youth and the usage of social media communications; especially from authority figures such as parents, teachers and even Government Members. Their general fears are youths sending naked photos of themselves, this moral panic escalated with the app Snapchat. When Snapchat was hacked and many underage individuals nude photos were exposed it caused a panic for many parents that their teen may have also been sending naked images with this application. Thus leading onto the fear about sexual predators attempting to groom teenagers on social media websites.

Dibbell’s (1993) chapter demonstrates why these fears from authority figures can be justified by presenting a case of “virtual” rape.  He graphically details a character being raped by another character in a game, though this crime cannot be convicted in “real life” as there are no physical effects. What about the psychological effects on the person who had to witness their character being raped? This leads into Larsen’s (2008) discussion of how teenagers use online communities to express their identity. Their online presence is their identity in practice (Larsen 2008), therefore, if their character which is modelled from themselves and portrays their true identity is raped, does this not affect the individual at-least psychologically?

Larsen (2008) presents an altering argument that social media sites are actually helping teenagers to find their true identity and through friends testimonials (generally composed of love and emoticons) on their sites, boosts their self-worth.  Though we are then presented with a separate issue, not every individual depending on cultural practices will interpret emoticons the same way (Koda et al. 2009), therefore perhaps leading to misinterpretation and a sense of transgression.

Consequently it can be seen that those who hold prejudices against social media sites have an adequate concern; but they are viewing this from often an outsider’s perspective and need to look holistically and view if social media is actually boosting a teenager’s self-worth.



Bush, V 1945,“As We May Think”,  Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 176, no.1, pp. 101-08

Rowlands, I, Nicholas, D, Williams, P, Huntington, P, Fieldhouse, M, Gunter, B, Withey, R, Hamid R, J, Dobrowolski, T & Tenopir, C 2008, ‘The Google Generation: The Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future’, Aslib Proceedings: New Information Perspectives, vol. 60, no. 4, pp. 290-310.




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