By Bunmi Sofola
After the widely published experience of Cynthia in the hands of her facebook predators about two years ago which eventually led to her gruesome death in an hotel room thousands of miles from her residence., a lot of shocking facts have emerged about the atrocities people commit online. In a devastating book released about a year ago, Choe Combi highlighted cases of teenagers who she interviewed for her book, who are caught in the webs of internet usage gone wild.
Rachel, she reported, “is a bright, pretty 17 -year -old who wants to study medicine. She has lots of friends and when they can slip or charm their way past the watchful bouncers of bars, they like to drink cocktails and enjoy being nearly grown up. She gets on with her parents and younger brother and her teachers praise her. Once a week, usually Sunday night, she performs solo sex acts on camera for a man she has never met called David. After talking to her online for about three months, David persuaded Rachel to start what she calls ‘the sex stuff’. He now has enough ‘sex stuff’ of Rachel on tape that she feels she can neither break contact with him nor stop doing what he asked of her.
“Michael has just turned 16. He has been watching hard-core pornography since he was 12 on either the laptop or iPhone that his parents bought for him. He has, by his own admission, seen ‘every sex act known to man’ in his pornography- viewing career, though he is yet to have sex. He doesn’t see much wrong with watching porn but he does admit to being unable to stop, despite ‘sometimes trying to’.”
A few months back, I was appalled when the graphic picture of an adult who should know better popped up on my WhatsApp. The foolish woman, naked and spread-eagled was supposed to have posed for a lover who forgot to delete the evidence. His snoopy wife got hold of his phone and off-loaded the picture on facebook for all to see. Heavens know what could have happened to her as a few months later, the same picture was posted, with a different caption alleging she’d since committed suicide. That sounded like an embellished truth to me.
However, these examples are just a few of the shocking experiences a lot of teenagers encounter whilst ‘surfing the net.’ It is perhaps difficult for adult to understand what the internet means to today’s teenagers and, therefore, they find it hard to comprehend how any of the examples are really happening. “For most of us,” wrote Combi, “the internet is a convenient form of communication, a mode of entertainment, which generally makes our lives easier.
For teenagers, it is a window into the world, an identity, a friend, a parent, a guide, a bounty of information, an endless supply of entertainment, a friendship maker or breaker, a source of heartache and a million other things. It is something they obey and seriously believe they cannot do without. This is the first generation that grew up from birth under the internet’s watchful eye. It informs and shapes their identity and is the most influential aspect of modem teenage life.
Certainly teenagers are more introspective than ever. Being plugged in online 24/7 means that they don’t even have to leave their bedrooms to communicate, socialize or meet new people. “Friendships and relationships are no longer forged in playgrounds on each other’s houses but on social media; on face book pages and other sites where being ‘liked’ in the virtual world counts for more than someone saying ‘I like you’ in person. Bullying is no longer a shove in the corridor or a freezing out of a friendship group but expressed in multiple texts or online messages where the victim might have no clue of the sender’s identity.
Teenage girls and boys no longer seek sex education from textbooks with anatomical diagrams, giggling friends or flustered parents, they can get it from films with titles like Teen Ass 2, which they can access on the smart phones that they carry with them at all times. New figures have also revealed that sexualized images of women on social media have led to an increase in emotional problems among young girls.
Teenagers rarely measure self-esteem or self-worth against personal and scholastic achievements, however brilliant they are, but increasingly by how many people tell them they are ‘hot’ on the photo-sharing website Instagram or other forms of social media. “Everyone wants to be an Instagram queen,” said Combi ~and adults don’t get it. You can be ‘Instagram famous’ without being famous at all in the real world. To be Instagram famous, you have to be amazing-looking and have the clothes and the body and do amazing things. “In a way, the most worrying fact in all this is that neither the internet nor social media is going away.
As the 21st century develops, all of us, but particularly the young, are going to become more entrenched in our carefully constructed online worlds and identities. It is increasingly important that parents and guardians insist on their teenagers living, communicating, forming opinions and experiencing things in the real world. It is crucial for all young people to know that nearly everything online is constructed or fake. Sex in the real world is different. Violence in the real world is different. People in the real world are different. And as alluring, fun and glamorous as the internet can be, reality, with all its imperfections, is so much better.” Winner Takes All? While Abe Rosen waited at the Pearly gates, St. Peter thumped through is lengthy personal file with an ever darkening frown.
Finally he said, “I am afraid you can’t come in Mr. Rosen. Look at this file;” said St. Peter, “it’s nothing but good deeds, practically every day. The problem is Abe, we’ve got popes, archbishops and rabbis up here and if we let you in with this impeccable record, it would cause great embarrassment to the social order, not to mention putting a few pontifical noses out of joint. We can’t have a mere tailor coming up here with a clean state.” Old Abe didn’t protest. He was that type of bloke. “Tell you what?,” said St. Peter, leaning forward on the counter in a confiding manner. “I’ll zap you back to earth for the afternoon. You’ve got six hours to plot you a copy book with a little sin. Do you think you could commit just one minor infringement? Then we could let you in without disturbing the hierarchy up here.” Abe said he would do his best, and in a flash he found himself sitting in his lounge chair by the fireplace in his flat. The mantle-piece clock chimed 12 noon and he began thinking “what sin could I commit?” He didn’t smoke.
He didn’t like strong drink and no way would he risk a dime on a horse. He spent the first three hours racking his brain before he remembered the middle-aged spinster in the flat above, Miss Leon. Yes, it was definitely a sin to make love to a woman to whom you were not married. And hadn’t Miss Leon gone out of her way at the last Body Corporate social function by deliberately sitting beside him, offering him tea and biscuits? “That’s what I’ll do,” he thought, and putting on his coat, he made his way up to her flat and knocked on the door. “Oh Mr. Rosen,” she said, “this is a surprise. Last thing I am hearing of you is that you are very sick, maybe dying. Will you come in for a glass of tea?”
Rosen sat there sipping tea, checking his watch and mentally noting that his life was fast ticking away while he was wasting time with small talk. By five 0′ clock, he was beginning to panic as he realized there was no tactful way to dive into sin; so suddenly he jumped up, grabbed Miss Leon, pushed her into the bedroom, ripped off her clothes and threw her on the bed. Then he sinned. And while he was at it, he thought that if this was to be the only sin in his life, he might as well give it all he had. About five-to-six, he began to feel life slipping away and he got out of bed to reach for his clothes. He turned to smile down at Miss Leon and said: “Miss Leon, I want to thank you. This afternoon you have shown me the way to heaven.” Miss Leon looked up with a tired little smile. “Mr. Rosen,” she said: “You shouldn’t mention it. Only me and the good Lord will know what a good deed you have done for me today!” (Culled from Vanguard).