You would think a species as technologically advanced as we are might have evolved alongside our understanding of complex science, but sadly this doesn’t seem to be the case.
If anything, we appear to be getting stupider.
With great technology comes great responsibility – if utilised correctly, the power we have at our fingertips could be harnessed as a force for good, but try telling that to people who are willing to set themselves on fire for social media ‘likes’.
In the last few years we’ve seen an increasing amount of ridiculous new viral trends, particularly stupid and dangerous stunts that people are willing to record themselves doing in their pursuit of internet fame.
When you combine the intrinsic human desire to be liked and validated by our peers with a sense that, in the virtual world, there are no consequences to your actions, it creates a toxic mix for young people.
We’ve seen people sucking a shot glass on their lips so they look like Kylie Jenner, wrapping themselves up in duct tape and nearly dying, dangerously huffing gas out of air horns and, as mentioned before, being hospitalised after literally setting themselves on fire.
Then there’s the charming cunt above, Brad Holmes, who went viral over the last few days after he cut his girlfriend’s hair off for Facebook ‘likes’. Even Dapper Laughs thought he went too far, which is a surefire sign you’ve really fucked up.
And while this is a fairly worrying development on its own – especially when you consider that our collective evolution as human beings has led us from cavemen chasing bison to wannabe viral celebrities glued to our phones, which doesn’t seem like much of an advancement at all – there is also a darker side to the whole thing.
There’s an increasing trend of people committing crimes for social media fame and notoriety.
Last weekend, it was reported that a former Thai gangster shot himself in the head while live streaming on Facebook – allegedly to get more followers.
Nae Wat Dao was admitted to hospital in Bangkok with a minor wound to the side of his head. Unfortunately for him this stunt backfired (no pun intended) and he had his Facebook page deleted, was charged with firearm offences, and was taken to a psychiatric hospital for his troubles.
While this is stupid, at least the only person he hurt was himself. There have been other, more worrying incidents – in August 2014, for example, New York University student Jaime Castano set a fellow student on fire and recorded it on Snapchat.
And an even darker incident took place in February this year.
Earlier this month, 29-year-old Raymond Gates was charged with kidnapping, rape, sexual battery, and pandering sexual matter involving a minor. Gates had met Marina Lonina, 18, and her friend at a mall in Columbus, Ohio, where he bought them vodka and suggested they meet up later.
They did meet up, and at some point Gates allegedly held down the unnamed friend, 17, and raped her – and instead of ringing the police or helping the girl, Lonina livestreamed the assault on Periscope.
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien later told the press: “She got caught up in the likes”.
O’Brien said Lonina hoped that by streaming the attack she could help stop it, but that she then became ‘enthralled’ by all the positive feedback she was getting on social media.
He added: “For the most part, she is just streaming it on the Periscope app and giggling and laughing”. According to the prosecutor, throughout the ten-minute video the victim is heard crying for help.
Lonina’s lawyer, Sam Shamansky, described her as a victim, however, and noted that at one point she asked her followers: “What should I do now?”
She’s a good kid. She’s a senior in high school. Comes from a fine family and is the furthest thing from a rapist… The rapist was in court and it was not my client.
Despite this defence, Lonina now faces the same charges as Gates. She’s been bailed until trial after pleading not guilty, and faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted.
The co-director of the Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior at Harvard University, Judith Edersheim, told Vice the idea that teens are willing to commit crimes for ‘likes’ can be explained because young people ‘have a tremendously potent response to peers on a neurological level,’ adding that: “Compared to adults, their responses to other people’s opinions of them are primed to be much more sensitive.”
But whatever the reason, it seems a lot of young people are unaware that their actions on social media have real world consequences, and their obsession with viral stardom at any cost could get them in serious trouble.
Online validation is definitely not worth spending 40 years in jail for.