By Jason Irick   |   November 23rd, 2013

How Facebook And Other Social Media Have Turned Private Family Matters Into Public Spectacles

social mediaSocial Media has reared its intrusive head since the early 2000’s. With the founding of MySpace in 2003, teenagers and young adults have connected beyond the letters snuck through classrooms, and the phone calls from landlines.  The early stages of MySpace allowed individuals to edit, create, and develop their page to fit their interests, often showing the personality types of the users, and allowing them to connect and interact with other students or friends.  The path that social media has taken since those “good ole days” has shifted into a realm of confusion… Facebook, YouTube, GooglePlus, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Photobucket, Pintrest, MyLife, and many more roam the internet fiendishly adding users every day.

This evolvement has spun the norms of social media into a whirlwind where instead of just students and young adults connecting, your worst fears of your parents, employers, pastor, community members, friends’ parents, and even pets have somehow worked their way into the picture.  No longer must you worry about your parents discovering your notes in the pocket of your favorite jeans while doing laundry, but you must now worry about your entire community, school, and parents discovering something that you meant to hide, or at least not tell the world.

The main issue this article intends to address is the current trend that has captivated the viral world; this trend is often referred to as “Public Shaming.”  Public shaming has its roots in society; only a few, short hundred years ago criminals were locked in wooden pallets where citizens would pelt them with rotten tomatoes.  Public shaming first made a literature appearance in the famed “Scarlet Letter” where Hester Prynne was forced to wear a scarlet A on her chest to let the world know what she had done (adultery).   Modern day judges will sometimes impose public humiliation sentences on criminals who act detrimental to society and the community; one could even liken the services of forcing inmates to collect trash in brightly colored uniforms on the sides of highways as a form of public humiliation.

If you read the above mentioned and conclude that these methods are quite effective, you’d be right (maybe not the scarlet letter for your literature aficionados), but you’ll also notice an overlying theme that led to these “public shaming’s.”  They were often carried out by communities or law enforcement officials, and were often in response to something quite severe.  Not often resulting from saying a few words that someone disagrees with or having a suggestive picture.  These examples are exactly what some modern day parents use as justification for lashing out at their adolescent children on social media.

Some current examples include a North Carolina father who, upon reading his daughter’s Facebook post, posted a video to YouTube of him shooting 9 hollow-point bullets from his .45 caliber handgun into his daughter’s laptop for what he called “complaining about chores and using curse words.”  This video immediately became viral and the man became somewhat of an internet super hero.

The Problem

In my opinion, the problem with this trend is that it is shrinking the emotional and maturity level of parents and their children.  Here, we have a 40+ male adult lashing out in his own way (violence) on his daughter’s belongings because of a rash statement she made on the internet.  I find this quite ironic, that is, lashing out online at someone in order to punish them for lashing out at someone online.  When did parenting become a world event?  How long before we post polls online to decide how to punish our children in order to instill fear in them of what pick may be chosen, putting the stress of a Hunger Games type scenario on them?  The problem here is parents are going to the same level as their children in order to punish them.  A study from aaracp.org described traits present in adolescent brains.  While reading these, see if you can find a difference in the daughter and the father’s action according to these traits.

Developing Adolescent Brains

  • Result in more rash decisions
  • Less thinking before acting
  • Involvement in fights
  • Engagement in dangerous or risky behavior
  • They are also less likely to consider the consequences of their actions.

After reading these characteristics, you may ask yourself the difference that the daughter and the father had in their actions.  Did both make rash decisions? Did either of them think before they acted?  Is this not an “online” fight? Did either of them consider the consequences of their actions?  I’m going to go with an uncontested “no” on all of these questions, and conclude that the father and daughter both acted immature, without either considering the consequences of their actions. This father took what should have been a private family matter and turned it into a public spectacle and humiliation for his teenage daughter.  How long before parents get “Batman” spotlights with the words “My Kid Sucks Today” and shine them in the sky for everyone to see when their child acts out?  Or, as punishment for her father, should the daughter have posted a video to YouTube of her shooting her father’s handgun and smoking cigarettes for the behavior he showed?

In today’s modern age of bullying and cyber-bully prevention, public shaming has a regretful aura.  Now, not only do children have a fear of what other children may do, but they also have a legitimate fear for the ones who they should trust the most.

Social Media And Parenting Conclusion

Facebook, and other social media, can often drive adults back in time, involving them in disputes that should be below them; disputes that should be resolved by them instead of having them add kindling to the fire.  The current status of social media has intertwined all age groups. This intertwinement has seemingly grouped most (not all) adults, adolescents, and students into one maturity level, eroding the barriers of parents and children, and enforcing a medieval trend found in feudal times.  The public shaming of your children should immediately be resolved with a statement published under the parent’s name that states, “I cannot accept the responsibilities involved in parenting for my child who I raised, and instead insist on damaging their psyche and possible future employment opportunities by publishing and embarrassing them to the world.”

Social Media And The Family
Family issues are exactly that, FAMILY issues.  These issues should be handled inside the family, and not made a spectacle for the world to judge.

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Jason IrickAbout The Author: Jason Irick
Jason Irick is a 2011 graduate of Wright State University. Currently Jason is attending The University of Dayton School of Law and plans to graduate in the spring of 2014. He is clerking for HCM&M and primarily is assisting attorney Mark Segreti. Jason and his Wife Renea, both enjoy spending time with their dog, and going to Bengals and Reds games.

Social Media: Is It Public Shaming?
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