Content Warning: non-graphic description of self-harm, no images
Sometimes the diverse, powerful, and easily-abused forces of the Internet will concoct something so disturbing that even those of us who have never lived in a world without it can’t quite fathom what hath been wrought.
Today, that came in the form of a Twitter Trending Topic, and possibly the worst one of all time.
“cutforbieber,” which, as of the time of this writing, has been trending since a little before 2:00PM EST Monday, is a Twitter hashtag which supposedly originated as a campaign for Justin Bieber fans to harm themselves as a statement against the pop star’s alleged drug use.
Complex Magazine (linked page does not currently contain additional triggering content, but this is subject to change) broke the story that the trend was actually started as a hoax by 4Chan, a “bulletin board” site on the cruelest corner of the Internet. It’s unclear, though, how many people have actually self-harmed today as a direct or indirect result of this trending topic.
What disturbs me most was that the 4Chan member who originated the idea was actively and admittedly attempting to persuade young girls to self-harm. This kind of disregard for the seriousness of cutting and similar behaviors is astounding, and must be, albeit to lesser degrees, pretty widespread, for the topic to have reached the levels it did in the first place.
The trending topic is filled with tweets mocking cutting and people who cut, and others expressing anger, even hatred, for the girls who have ostensibly harmed themselves as part of the campaign. Their anger is dangerously misdirected, and exists in a contradictory culture where many young people express frustration with people who “cut for attention,” while just as many others romanticize and glorify images of self-harm on blogging sites like Tumblr.
The fact is that the ensuing attention is, for many, a factor that plays a major role in their self-harm. Their actions often serve as a signal to others that they are in desperate need of help when other methods haven’t worked. No actual self-harm should be immediately met with outright disgust, especially when the psychological and emotional circumstances surrounding it are not known. Sometimes, like in this case, the cultural circumstances are the ones that merit our disgust.
But disgust, of course, it wasteful unless it’s accompanied with action. Action needs to be taken against the individuals who started the trend, and 4Chan needs to take responsibility about the dangers of allowing this kind of activity to take place. Justin Bieber and Twitter need to speak out about the topic. Please continue to educate yourself and others about the significance and seriousness of self-harm, and speak out when you hear ignorant speech about self-harm.