Twitter, Rebecca Black, and the Dark Side of Social Media

by Katheryn on May 13, 2011 · 19 comments

Twitter, Rebecca Black, and the Dark Side of Social Media

Twitter, as many social media experts know, is a wonderful medium for communicating with and keeping track of your friends and your favorite media sources, both local and national, as well as celebrities, sports stars, brands, and more. It’s an unbeatable way to market your business online, it can help you find a job, and, as the media have noted, it can help foment a revolution.

Still, Twitter and other social media platforms of its ilk do have their downsides. What doesn’t get as much press, although we know it to be a pretty bad offender in the social media realm, is the phenomenon of mob viciousness. Of course, the horrors of mobs have existed from time immemorial, but when they go online, the vitriol is carried out with such a disgusting sense of impunity that I’m not sure quite what to make of it. Here are my complaints as manifested in the recent Rebecca Black scandal.

Obsession with insta-celebrities.

The recent hate parade launched against Rebecca Black, a thirteen-year-old girl whose parents had paid for her to star in a semi-professional music video produced by a vanity company that placed her song on YouTube. Of course, the video, a tween pop song of the Kesha oeuvre called Friday, went viral very quickly, eventually ratcheting up about forty million views. The little girl’s popularity resulted from the “it’s-so-bad-it’s-good-phenomenon”, which is fine in my book, but this can become a setup for the mob going wild.

Hateful commenting gone way too wild

As I’ve said, I have no problem with celebrity adulation in healthy doses. I’ve got my inner fan freak, too. But the mob that held Black up to some twisted form of hatred and fascination, took their fandom to a whole new level when Twitter users began barraging their epithets in tweets to her account, many of which crossed from insults into death threats.

The lack of cleverness when insulting others.

As someone who occasionally dabbles in arts and cultural criticism, I feel that the art of insult is very important. And to see this art form taken to such a low level absolutely amazes me. In a recent Guardian article, culture and arts critic Charlie Brooker makes this point wonderfully clear:

It’s a soulless lack of self-reproach that makes the predominant Perez Hilton/3am Girl/Holy Moly/TMZ gloaty online sneer-culture so unbearably dull and depressing…And this culture dominates Twitter. Twitter is great for disseminating news, trivia and practical instructions on when and where to meet up in order to overthrow the government, but it also doubles as a hothouse in which viral outbreaks of witless bullying can be incubated and unleashed before anyone knows what’s happening.”

Whether it’s tasteless, morally questionable, or just plain dumb to tweet short, trite insults that sometimes transform into malicious intimidation, is debatable. One can say that it is almost always all three. But as Twitterers who use the social media tool every day, whether for personal or professional purposes, how do we reconcile ourselves with a platform that is both incredibly powerful but incredibly conducive to spewing such hatred? What are your thoughts?

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Richard May 14, 2011 at 12:14 am

I see this a lot in social media and viral news as well. It seems that bad news is frequently a recipe to going viral. It’s much harder to get positive news to go viral which is a shame.
Richard´s last blog post ..The Panda Blogger Ventures Out

Kavya Hari May 14, 2011 at 9:32 am

Today, social media plays an important role in the web. And, it has an lot of facilities in that particular place. So, thanks a lot for given up here :)

Riya May 14, 2011 at 10:40 am

Human tendency is to like controversy than any good & nice news. That’s what we’ve seen in twitter as well.
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Katheryn Rivas May 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm


You make a very good point. As much as it seems as though spewing hatred is a phenomenon unique to the web, libel and slander have existed for ages. The Internet just makes it easier to do this, considering that people can post things quickly and anonymously

Bathroom Suites May 14, 2011 at 12:34 pm

You are Right I Agree with you in matter of Dark Side. As this is a social Networking site so this matter lost coz it affect on social networks directly or indirectly.

All three points are very much true and especially I mostly hate last point i.e. lack of cleverness when insulting others. Insulting others is as per me is brutial CRIME ans with lack of cleverness it becomes more DANGEROUS.

Atulperx May 16, 2011 at 5:15 am

You have explained each part very well but sometimes rude or aggressive comments spoil newbies mood too and they never publish such lines in main content section. I think many blogger still need to get mature enough to reply all comments posted by readers easily.

If you see any aggressive topic on social sites, then you can also notice few comments like – “why my comments have been deleted” …etc ..
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Johanna May 16, 2011 at 10:13 am

It is human nature to like bad news and to look for trouble. We aren’t much interested in the good things that happen in the world. People like controversies, gossips, rumors, and things that can spark intrigue and curiosity. I guess that for some people, it is really boring if there is no bad or unusual news at all. Social media sites, no matter how many do’s and dont’s they put there, profanities and hate-remarks cannot be stopped. People should take full responsibility for everything they do or say.
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Katheryn Rivas May 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm


Thanks for the insightful input. This is also true, everyone loves controversy, and I will admit that I include myself in this category. Responsibility is a very important part of keeping the Internet civil, as is thinking before you write something. Whenever I respond to an article, I was write my responses in notepad, then wait a bit before submitting. You will automatically sound more intelligent, and if you are angry, you will sound less rude if wait a few moments to really think.

Dave Lucas May 16, 2011 at 11:47 am

Hate, like love, has its place.

Dave Lucas May 16, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Hate, like love, has its place in the world.

Imran May 16, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Every good side has its own darkside, similarly Social media is give lots of goodies to us, it the people to take advantages of this facilities which are been presented in form of social media.

We cannot help, we as loyal users should try and help in building a happy community. Instead of concentrating on the darkside.

Imran@shariffDotOrg´s last blog post ..How Weak Headlines Can Slowly Kill A Blog

Katheryn Rivas May 17, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Hello everyone,

Thank you so much for leaving such cogent comments on my post. I hope that I sparked an interesting discussion, one that I think is important to have, especially considering the Web 2.0 as we know it is still in its infancy. And proper protocol is yet to be established if we are to build a sustainable community on the web.

Marcus Baker May 18, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Interesting post. While social media and technology in general has been revolutionary in assisting people to express the positive, so it’s just as powerful a means for those who want to spread hatred and focus on the negative. Your example re the abuse of Twitter illustrates this clearly.

I don’t think there’s much we can do about it other than not to give it undue attention which I believe puts it in the spotlight and attracts more of the same to manifest. Our quandary of course is what we can do about it as we can’t just stand by and allow it to happen either.

We probably have no choice but to continue entrenching the ‘policing’ of unacceptable behaviour which personally I doubt has much effect. At the end of the day we can only ever control our own thoughts and actions and that’s all I can take responsibility for.

Marcus Baker@ Network Marketing Internet Business´s last blog post ..Do You Invite Your Email Marketing List To Your Facebook Party

adamobile May 20, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Hi Katheryn,
this is not actually a problem. We now live in a different dimension. After the Assange discovery, we need to adjust ourselves to the understanding that we live in an open world where there is no place to hide. However, there definitely should be a code of behaviour
adamobile´s last blog post ..Mobile Casino Games New Trend

Tech May 20, 2011 at 6:11 pm

This is a brilliant website. There are whole a lot of useful information that I’m looking for. It helps me a lot. I hope you will keep it up. Thank you very much, my friend :)

GoDaddy Review May 23, 2011 at 12:27 pm

I see this a lot in social media and viral news as well. It seems that bad news is frequently a recipe to going viral. It’s much harder to get positive news to go viral which is a shame.
GoDaddy Review´s last blog post ..Apple Jumping Into Cloud Services

niko June 20, 2011 at 1:21 am

Well it’s really hard….

Especially if the person id old enough to not have done something
usually brought on by themeselves, we as humans have nothing better
to do but comment on other peoples stupid behavior less it happen tothem.

I do disagree with such hatred against those who don’t know any better
or things that are out of peoples control.

At the same time these should be Lessons Learned for those on the reciving end.

Cynnie November 20, 2011 at 5:52 pm

I think Rebecca becomes popular because of her haters so she must thank them. I read an article that she is back with another video “Person of Interest”. Do you think it’ll be another hit like Friday?

You can read the full article here

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