Today I was introduced to something called “Smack Cam.” ← Warning: That link is shocking. Some of what you’ll see there is horrific, stupid and depressing. If you don’t want to click that link, and I almost hope you don’t, I’ll give you a quick overview.
The hashtag #smackcam exploded on Vine in the past week, consisting of (mostly) teenagers who think it’s the ultimate height of hilarity to film themselves smashing their peers in the face or head and laughing hysterically. Many of the short clips can actually be classified as pranks: Two girls “smacking” whipped cream on a friends face (softly); a boy “smacking” another boy’s face with a light slap, etc. These examples, while immature, are not shocking. Who among us didn’t do this sort of thing when we were teenagers (and the Internet was AOL dial-up, and smartphones were thankfully not yet a thing)? It’s the extreme smackcams that horrify my sensibilities.
The smackcam that’s getting the most attention right now is one where a teenage boy takes a running start and absolutely wallops a teenage girl in the back of the head with a gallon jug full of juice. (I will not link to it here – you can find it easily by googling or by following the above link to the Jezebel article.) She is nearly thrown off her chair, and the last seconds of the video show what looks like blood seeping our of her head. It’s positively shocking. There’s no question in the mind of any logical adult that what you’ve just watched is assault. A young male assaulting a young female, gleefully, on camera, for social media.
Now, it came out earlier this afternoon that the girl was in on it – she knew it was going to happen. This seems to convince some people that her knowledge makes it OK. I couldn’t possibly disagree more. I think this makes it worse.
The truth behind it all https://t.co/Zy8OLD5lsv
— AC D’Antonio (@theACisonhigh) July 25, 2013
This entire trend, and the fact that people are willingly agreeing to be assaulted on camera, is a frightening example of what has become not only acceptable, but encouraged in today’s climate of social media over-saturation. When chasing retweets and favorites and link-backs and views and shares leads our young teens, the future of our country, to record themselves physically assaulting someone and publicly post it online, something is desperately wrong.
Aside from the message of violence, disrespect, and misbehavior it encourages, this kind of stupidity has the possibility to ruin – or at least negatively alter – the future lives of the kids participating. And this is something I’m willing to bet these kids haven’t considered.
What manager in their right mind would hire someone that would participate in something like this, even ten years down the line? What woman in her right mind would date someone who would participate in something like this? Even in ten years, the kid with the jug will be googled by hiring managers, not to mention potential dating partners, landlords, the parents of potential dating partners, grad school admissions officers, and on and on. What if he wants to eventually be a police officer? Or a congressman? The video of him gleefully assaulting a teenage girl will pop up, and the video asserting that the girl was in on it just makes them both look worse. They chose to do this? Publicly? This boy has forever altered his reputation, and we’re not talking about a couple of sexy pictures or poorly-worded racist blog posts or something. We’re talking about what looks like a very violent assault on a female. How is this OK?
How have we gotten to this point? In what way did we so alter our national culture that doing something like this is considered “cool”? And how can we change this?
Social media is supposed to be, overall, good. Social media has opened up the world in ways I could never have imagined when I was teenager in the mid- to late-90’s. Social media ushered in the Arab Spring, has given Ai Weiwei a platform for dissidence in China, and allows the in-laws to see real-time pics and videos of their grandchildren on the other side of the world. Social media has created millions of jobs in an industry that didn’t exist when I graduated from college. Social media is, simply put, amazing. We may not have the flying cars of the “future,” but the DeLorean never took Doc and Marty to a place where connections could be made from your living room without a fax machine.
Social media has changed the world. Yet trends like #smackcam make it seem like social media is also tearing apart the basic decency of this world. I’m not sure how to end this, honestly. Let’s try to remind this post-millennial generation that just because they think it’s funny as a teenager, they will be positively horrified as an adult.
And violence is never, ever funny.