Content that is shared on the internet can spread very quickly. Every day a new trend seems to go viral and it can be very easy to become caught up in the latest kind of internet fun. Many of these viral trends involve some sort of user participation. Next time you want to be involved in a viral trend, you are advised to carefully consider what the effects might be and whether this trend could be harmful to someone else. Some viral trends encourage cyber bullying, so think before you act.
The following list includes examples of previous viral trends which have included bullying elements. Be aware that future viral trends could include similar harmful behaviours.
Happy Slapping. Happy Slapping is the name given to hitting, slapping, punching or throwing objects at a stranger (or known person) whilst the attack is being filmed. The video of the attack is then uploaded onto the internet or widely shared via smartphones. Not only is the victim of the Happy Slapping subjected to a physical assault, but they are then further humiliated by having their attack shared online for other people to react to. This action constitutes a form of cyber bullying.
It is also worth noting that Happy Slapping is illegal, as a number of different offences may have been committed. These offences include; assault, harassment and contravening telecommunications laws. Those who are tempted to engage in Happy Slapping are also warned that assault can be deadly, even if there is no deadly intention behind the action. Hitting someone in the wrong way can, and has, caused death due to Happy Slapping.
Hot or Not (Rate or Slate). In the Hot or Not trend, users create videos in which they rate their friends as being hot or not. Whilst Hot or Not may seem like it is a bit of fun, it can be very upsetting for people to find videos where they have been rated as a “not”. Even if the comment is only meant as a joke between friends, it can play on teenage insecurities during a period where many teenagers are body conscious. When these videos are posted online, they are normally also opened up to comments. It can be very upsetting if other people join in with the ratings, especially if those people are not in on the joke. A few negative comments about physical appearance can be really upsetting, especially if the commenters continue to push home their point with creative insults.
“… Challenge”. Challenges are viral trends where users are asked to record themselves doing something which is a little bit silly, demeaning or dangerous. Although challenges can be fun when they are done correctly, they have the possibility to turn into cyber bullying if they are misused. Children and teenagers should not be forced to do something if they do not want to. Hounding other social media users until they agree to perform the challenge in question is considered to be a form of bullying.
Users may be victimised if their video does not live up to the expectations of their peers. Bullying victims may have their efforts thrown back into their faces as the bullies use extracts from the videos to continue to taunt. Challenges can also become dangerous if participants compete to perform the most extreme version of the challenge. Users can be hurt or killed if they take things too far. Other challenges, such as the “salt and ice” challenge are inherently dangerous. Putting ice and salt onto the skin at the same time can lead to permanent scarring.
Roasting. Roasting is a viral trend where people compete with one another to be as hurtful as possible. Although roasting is meant to be done in a humorous way, many people find that the comments go too far. Most of the comments are also of a personal nature, which can be very upsetting for people if any secrets are shared. Roasting in a public forum can also take on a life of its own if other internet users decide to join in.
Dare Websites. Dare websites are websites where users are able to challenge other users to perform a specific dare. Participants may be given points for daring to complete specific challenges. In order to prove that a dare has been completed, participants may be required to post videos or photos to the website as evidence. Children who are using these sites could be bullied into performing stunts or dares which are dangerous or illegal. Most of the people who are posting the dares are unknown quantities who do not care about the lives or reputations of the people who they are daring. In addition to this, the photos or the video evidence which is posted may subsequently be used to humiliate or blackmail the bullying victim.