Social networking website Twitter has been in the news a lot recently, most notably because it was blocked by the Turkish government after audio recordings indicating corruption were leaked online. This time however, it is because one particular account is awash with lewd teen photos that people have posted themselves, prompting anti-Twitter folk to go up in arms about how such compromising pictures can be shared so freely with the general public.
The profile in question, @LIPartyStories (Long Island Party Stories) lets people upload explicit images such as urination and nakedness from party situations for its 18 thousand followers to see. The profile has since been suspended by the site.
The situation raises questions on a multitude of levels, most prominently about whether companies like Twitter and Facebook are doing enough to protect not only the people who publish these perverse posts, but also users that are able to unwillingly stumble across them whilst surfing online. It has been the opinion of many that despite the parental controls that can be applied to web access, social media still offers a vastly uncensored gateway into the darker world of Internet usage.
Twitter was founded in 2006 but grew rapidly in the proceeding years, with 50 million “tweets” posted per day by February 2010. Each individual post is limited to 140 characters, but can also contain pictures and video recordings. Tweets are publicly visible by default, but users do have the option to privatize them to just their followers if they so wish. As of January 2014, the total number of active profiles was just under 650 million, with the most followed users being Katy Perry and Justin Bieber (both with around 50 million followers).
As a result of the initial success of Twitter, coupled with the fact that it is one of the most visited websites of all time, it is almost impossible to regulate entirely and prevent it from becoming awash with questionable content including these latest lewd teen photos. Dr Keith Ablow of the Fox News Medical A-Team described the people depicted in @LIPartyStories account photos as “emotionally disordered […] probably suffering with one or more symptoms of a brewing personality disorder”. He went on to state that “every one of the teenagers directly involved should be in psychotherapy”.
Whilst this may seem like a remarkably dramatic analysis (it’s not entirely clear if Ablow is aware of the debilitating effects of alcohol or the natural carefree essence of teenagers) there is no illusion as to whether this type of behavior would exist without social media. Younger generations in the 21st century come across as wild and lacking in self-respect, and no matter how much such a description may be subject to stereotype, these images prove it. On the other hand, that’s not to say that if Twitter and Facebook were around in the 80’s, pictures of a similar fashion wouldn’t populate the Internet as well.
It would be unfair to place the blame squarely on the shoulders of either the sites that allow this to take place, or the people who are actively involved, but if Twitter is awash with lewd teen photos now, it’s very difficult to see a time in the future when such material is completely stamped out.
Opinion by Zachary John