Microsoft researcher and author danah boyd discusses why Facebook is an anomaly, the myth of using real names online, and why kids fragment their lives online and use pseudonyms. She also talks about why panics over kids on social media are dangerous.
I think about this woman whose case I got involved with. Her name was Tess, and she lived in Colorado. She and her boyfriend at the time killed her mother. The media coverage of this was at the height of MySpace, so the media coverage was “Girl With MySpace Kills Mother” which is always really like, “What the hell? What does this have to do with MySpace?” So I went and looked at it. People said she was a troubled kid, and that’s why she was on MySpace, and that’s why she killed her mother, blah blah blah. So I found her MySpace. For a year and a half she had documented abuse she faced at home, her attempts to run away, her attempts to get help, her confusion and frustration, her own mental health issues. She was a mess, and she was putting it all out there._
I was talking to a bunch of her friends and I said, “You guys saw this, why didn’t you say something?” One of her best friends said, “We did, regularly. The school told us it wasn’t their problem. They told us that they blocked MySpace, and they couldn’t look at it. They didn’t know what we were talking about.”
Meanwhile, as the case unfolded, what we learned was that the school had seen her come to school with black-and-blue marks, which they reported to Social Services, but by the time Social Services would investigate they’d say there wasn’t enough evidence to proceed. All this evidence was clearly documented on social media, which is really frustrating to me, because here’s this young woman who’s crying out for help all over social media, using this new tool, really trying to find somebody to pay attention. And nobody’s around.