Last week, Girl Doll was watching a TV show called Catfish. She explained the premise of the show, and what the term 'catfishing' meant: people who falsely represent themselves on social media or online chat rooms. The TV show exposes people who have misrepresenting themselves, and they are confronted by the person/s they've duped in front of a studio audience.
Although it's a fascinating study in human behavior, it was impossible for me to watch more than a few minutes. It was excruciating to watch people try and work through their betrayal, and to see the people who had falsely represented themselves try and justify their behavior.
A favorite blogger of mine hosts a community forum on her blog where people can offer support and ask questions about a wide range of topics, from parenting and pets to writing and travel. And then one day, it happened: a woman who claimed to have five children and a husband dying of cancer -- and who had numerous holes in her online story -- was called out by another member. The community exploded, and a debate ensued. Maybe she was telling the truth...and how bad would we all feel if we had wrongly accused her? How much did it really cost the rest of us to show kindness, even if she wasn't telling the truth? For most people, they took the deception with a grain of salt; you never truly know who you're 'talking' to online.
I recently had this conversation with my hairstylist. She made an interesting point about what a small world it was anymore, and that people frequently made connections with others online. She went on to say, "It doesn't just happen online, though. People misrepresent themselves all the time. I could be completely putting you on and be a totally different person than you think I am." She makes a good point, although it's not really something you want to hear from someone holding razor-sharp scissors two inches from your eye.
My kids are in a band, and I manage their band's Instagram account. Their page has followers from as far away as Iran and Australia. Seeing photos and comments is an interesting insight into the lives of teenagers. One follower wrote that he/she wished they had been born in the 70's or 80's, because music was so much better then, and that 'my generation will probably be seen as a bunch of lazy idiots addicted to their smart phones.' Maybe, but maybe not. Many of the comments and photos are poignant, endearing and refreshing.
However, many photos are incredibly disturbing. That's the trouble with the internet: there is some stuff you just can't unsee. I've come across drug use, graphic images and nudity, even pornography. It's terrifying to think my kids are navigating in this online world, and I feel like I am fighting a losing battle by trying to shield them from some pretty heavy shit.
One of the band's followers is a 15-year old girl that posts things like, "Name a food in the comments, and I won't eat it for a month." She has recently posted several photos of herself covered in blood, after taking a razor blade and cutting her upper arms. The caption? 'I don't know if I can do this anymore. Goodbye.' It is enormously disturbing. I mean, where the fuck are her parents?
I showed the image to Girl Doll, and she told me to leave it alone. Her wisdom was that it was likely a fake account, and at minimum she was just trolling for attention. Aside from reporting the image to Instagram, there wasn't really anything we could do. I was incredibly concerned, although the girl went on to post a photo the next morning with a QOTD (question of the day) about what her favorite song currently was, as if the previous post had never happened. Maybe it's all bullshit, and this is a classic case of catfishing - but even if it isn't, it's not my job to swoop in and save people on the internet.
The whole thing makes me feel very old.