Facebook: have you been “Spotted”?
For those of you fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with this term, “Spotted” is the latest university craze to grace our Facebook pages and highlights everything that is wrong with the “lad” culture that dominates British society today.
Allowing students to send in anonymous messages on a Facebook page, “Spotted” began as a relatively harmless way to flirt with those you were too shy to approach, and provided entertainment for those stuck in the library revising for exams. What started off as a relatively low-key page for a single university has since spawned replica pages for universities such as York, Bath, Reading and Loughborough.
Set up under names such as Spotted: University of Bath Library Community and Spotted: Loughborough Students Union Shop, the pages predominantly feature messages to other students within the community.
Posts such as the ones above are relatively harmless, yet these Facebook pages have led to far more worrying posts that highlight the problems Britain encounters with the rising “lad” culture that mistakes sexism, racism and outright bullying for “banter”. Although perhaps not quite as explicitly provocative as comments that were posted on the 2011 website Unilad.com (one post read “think about this mathematical statistic: 85 percent of rape cases go unreported. That seems to be fairly good odds.”), comments that were once considered socially abhorrent and unacceptable are now considered to be “funny” and “banter”.
Comments relating to how someone looks, which sexual acts you would like to perform on them and slurs against someone’s ethnicity are amongst those considered to be acceptable material, and the more explicit you are the better. Take, for instance, the comments below. What should be considered as racial and sexual harassment and abuse is now considered to be the norm. At what point did this become acceptable?
Speaking out against the “banter” culture in The Independent back in 2012, Hazel Morgan argued: “The modern student is living in a world defined by pictures of objectified women, directions on how to get laid, and why you should down as many Jagerbombs as possible on a night out.” Getting laid and getting drunk is one thing, but when did abuse under the all-forgiving guise of banter become a necessary part of social life?
Whilst I’m sure many are reading this and thinking I am over-reacting, what we should focus on is where this attitude leads us. One has only to look at Twitter to see the damage that occurs when comments that cross the line go unpunished. Whilst 2012 saw the arrest of a handful of people using their Twitter accounts to abuse others, hundreds of thousands of comments went by unnoticed.
Take, for instance, the abuse Louise Thompson got on Twitter last year after the UK show Made in Chelsea aired an episode in which she chose cast member Spencer Matthews over Jamie Laing. Numerous tweets branding Louise a “slut” and worse were sent without a thought. The social media networks set up to connect people are now being used to abuse them instead.
Worse still, this attitude to flippant abuse under the banner of “having a laugh” pervades workplaces and social institutions with adverse affects. Looking at the comments on “Spotted” serves as a chilling reminder of the comments of Canadian police officer Michael Sanguinetti who stated: “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.” These particular comments led to worldwide protests, yet this attitude towards women is not unique.
Speaking to a friend recently, I was told she constantly has to deal with jibes about her appearance in the workplace. One particular comment from a colleague – one male colleague deemed it acceptable to ask if she had left the rest of her skirt at home – hit home, yet when she complained to a workmate she was told that it was mere “banter”.
Granted, “Spotted” is just a Facebook page for university students, but what it reveals should sound alarm bells. If we allow comments such as these to go unnoticed at this level, what message does that send? What is to stop those commenting on these university pages from carrying on in the workplace, and do we want to live in a society where adults and students alike find sexual harassment and racism acceptable?
University officials at the universities of Bath, Loughborough and York have all taken action to try and close these pages. The reaction to this within the pages has been vitriolic. Do we want to live in a society like that? Just food for thought.