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How social media turns online arguments between teens into real-world violence

14 0 4

The deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in January exposed the power of social media to influence real-world behavior and incite violence. But many adolescents, who spend more time on social media than all other age groups, have known this for years.

“On social media, when you argue, something so small can turn into something so big so fast,” said Justin, a 17-year-old living in Hartford, Connecticut, during one of my research focus groups. (The participants’ names have been changed in this article to protect their identities.)

For the last three years, I have studied how and why social media triggers and accelerates offline violence. In my research, conducted in partnership with Hartford-based peace initiative COMPASS Youth Collaborative, we interviewed dozens of young people aged 12-19 in 2018. Their responses made clear that social media is not a neutral communication platform.

In other words, social media isn’t just mirroring conflicts happening in schools and on streets – it’s intensifying and triggering new conflicts. And for young people who live in disenfranchised urban neighborhoods, where firearms can be readily available, this dynamic can be deadly.

Internet banging

It can result in a phenomenon that researchers at Columbia University have coined “internet banging.” Distinct from cyberbullying, internet banging involves taunts, disses and arguments on social media between people in rival crews, cliques or gangs. These exchanges can include comments, images and videos that lead to physical fights, shootings and, in the worst cases, death.

It is estimated that the typical U.S. teen uses screen media more than seven hours daily, with the average teenager daily using three different forms of social........

© Japan Today

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