If you’re as hooked to social media as I am, you may have seen the rapid emergence of Twitter accounts and Facebook pages with which students can submit anonymous comments about attractive people they’ve seen in different places around Uni. These sites can be really funny, even flattering at times, but they do have a darker side.
While they encourage both men and women to talk about their sexual misdemeanours or tweet about fellow students they find attractive, they do objectify women far more than they do men. When a man shares their confession about a sexual experience, they often come across as a hero for their ‘laddish’ behaviour. Unfortunately, the reaction when women share similar stories does not receive anywhere near as much praise or reward.
There’s also a clear difference between the kind of things men tweet at women, and the Tweets women direct at men, on Eddy B Hotshots for example. Some of the Tweets from men include, “If you’re wearing makeup in the library…. you’re a slut. #fact” and “roses are shit, violets are twisted, bend over love, you’re gonna get fisted #cute #soppy #luckyladies”. While Tweets from female students to men are often close to, “Who does this kid think he is coming to #flirteen with slippers on.” Obviously this is small snapshot of Tweets but you get the picture. These sites can be used in a jokey friendly way or in an offensive way.
But there’s a more worrying side. When it comes to spotted accounts like Eddy B Hotshots and Who’s got The Edge, there is the potential for personal harassment. People won’t mean to cause any harm when tweeting about someone they’ve ‘spotted’ and most will see that they’ve been tweeted about and take it as intended; a harmless joke or a compliment. But not everyone will feel comfortable knowing that someone near them is eyeing them up and typing up a very public review online. And there’s no way of knowing who is reading either.
For me, there is something quite unsettling about knowing that you may be scrutinised for your appearance when revising for an exam or writing an essay. Our society teaches people that appearance has a very high value, with intelligence and personality lower down the list. The prospect of being either sexually objectified or derided for your appearance by an anonymous stranger in the library only reinforces that notion.
I don’t deny that there is potential for some good in these sites. They certainly get students talking. Submissions are often genuinely funny and can provide a welcome relief from revision. Many posts are highly complementary and will not cause any harm.
All of this said, I’m not sure what can be done about the negatives. Any comment which gets submitted seems to automatically get published regardless of whether it is offensive. I wouldn’t argue to have these sites removed, so the onus is on the users, rather than the facilitators. So the next time you’re submitting a review or confession to one of these sites, just think about what you write down. You never know who’s reading.