A Dark Day on Twitter

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.

Pop sensation Justin Bieber has long polarized music listeners. Because of this, he often finds himself at the center of controversies he never asked for.

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.

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2 comments

  1. I have to say that I completely agree with the issues that you have raised within this post. However, naming 4chan as
    “a “bulletin board” site on the cruelest corner of the Internet.” I didn’t agree with so much. Don’t get me wrong the site does contain some extremely questionable things, yet it does provide a necessary forum for pretty much anything that may be considered taboo or ‘not a normal’ thing to like or to be into.
    I’m not speaking as an active 4chan participant, but as someone who regularly reads some of 4chan’s more adult forums because I have an academic interest in paraphilias, particularly fetishism and its relationship to mental health. The forum seems to provide people with a completely anonymous outlet to discuss with other like minded individuals things that majority of people would consider abnormal preferences. A lot of the time these discussions between users are non sexual, heartfelt and helpful as its providing its users with a sense of normality in their desires rather than a sigma that there is something clinically wrong with them. A stigma that can undoubtedly effect their mental health and ‘self’ image. Admittedly taking the media into the account on this, ’50 shades’ has also highlighted the incorrect notion that to be into anything BDSM or fetishist you have to have some mental health issue which further highlights the need for outlets such as these.
    I just feel that places on the internet such as 4chan provide a needed outlet in most cases, and that slamming it (however correctly) shouldn’t be the only thing said about it as it does have many positive attributes.
    Nice post though!

    • I’m glad you liked my post, and you’re completely right in saying that my assessment of 4chan was a bit too harsh and general. I’ll be more careful in the future, and thank you for teaching me a bit more about a site I honestly wasn’t very familiar with!

      Jared


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