In today’s society, which often focuses on the benefits of the Internet, individuals often do not acknowledge the dangers of misusing the Internet. Although social media websites may be helpful in enhancing communication between families or members of the community, they can also be ways for people to transmit negative and hurtful messages.
Cyberbullying is unfortunately prevalent today. In fact, the Cyberbullying Research Center found that about half of adolescents have experienced some form of cyberbullying, and 10 to 20 percent experience it regularly. As access to social media is on the rise with more technological developments, suicides related to social networks have also increased.
From Myspace to Facebook, websites have been a frequent medium through which peers attack one another without having to face each other. Yet Ask.fm, a site created in June 2010 on which users can anonymously post questions on others’ pages, has made cyberbullying even worse.
In a September 2013 post, Buzzfeed’s Ryan Broderick profiled nine teenage suicides that had been linked to the social network within the previous year. According to Broderick, one of the teens, Joshua Unsworth, “allegedly was bullied for months leading up to his suicide, with anonymous commenters mocking his father’s job by calling Joshua “a farmer” and harassing him about his dating habits. “
In the aftermath of these suicides, family and friends have created several Change.org petitions to remove the site. One petition, begun after Florida teenager Jessica Laney hung herself after allegedly being bullied over her weight, has been signed over 8,000 times. Yet site founder Mark Terebin has rejected the call.
“Mass media is knocking on the wrong door,” Terebin wrote on his own Ask.fm profile.
“It’s not about the site,” he continued, “the problem is about education… Ask.fm is just a tool which helps people to communicate with each other… Don’t blame a tool, but try to make changes.”
However, Terebin is wrong. Although it is true that user is the one who ultimately makes the choice of cyberbullying someone or not, the fact that a source of anonymity exists makes individuals more prone to “venting” or posting mean comments about each other.
Social media sites such as Facebook exist to enhance communication; Ask.fm seeks to hide real communication under anonymity. In doing so, it can be a tool for destroying relationships and even lives. Terebin and his company should remove the site from the Internet.