“SPOTTED”: Banter of Bullying?

If you’re a Facebook user, chances are you’ve come across the social media site’s latest trend, the anonymous messenger ‘Spotted’.

There are many different variations of these pages now up and running across the social network, ranging from those displaying anonymous comments to the more recent name and shame pages “Tell Her/Him”

“Spotted” pages are the most common of the bunch and kick-started the latest craze that has taken over the nation. These were originally introduced exclusively amongst University communities and were merely intended to give procrastinating students a bit of comic relief amongst their studies. Nonetheless, the craze soon blew up beyond what anyone could have predicted and now there is an adaptation for virtually every University and city around the UK.

The general idea of ‘Spotted’ is to allow Facebook users to post a message or photo anonymously for everyone who has liked that page to see, with the only limitation being that they are not allowed to mention anyone’s name. All was fine and dandy when it started off as a playful way to exchange flirtatious compliments, To the blonde girl in the blue high-waisted jeans working on the lower ground floor. You are gorgeous.”

Or light hearted comments about things that had amused an individual throughout the day, Heading from Birmingham to Manchester, I saw a man with a pocket full of those ketchup sachets from a fast food place. He just took one out and ate it. Not on anything, just sucked straight from the packet...”

However, what began as fun and games soon spiralled out of control, as these pages transformed from a bit of light entertainment into platforms to spread gossip and victimise individuals with personal and hurtful comments.

Since the appearance of the ‘Spotted’ pages at Universities, numerous students have protested about the content being posted, suggesting that a large percentage of it is offensive and encourages bullying. This has now lead to a number of pages being removed from Facebook, including those in York and Exeter.

Many may reason that the comments are made in good humour and an argument that has come up a lot amongst the debate of pages of this nature, is that it’s all ‘banter’ and should not be taken seriously. I’m not sure what others would define ‘banter’ to be; however, I personally would interpret it to be joking amongst friends with no harmful intention.

Amongst today’s ‘lad culture’, it seems that banter can be used an excuse for almost anything however and I for one do not believe that the casual racist and sexist comments that frequent some of these ‘Spotted’ pages should be viewed as something humorous.

This isn’t to paint all the ‘Spotted’ pages with the same brush though. Some have a higher level of moderation about what is posted, removing anything that could be seen as offensive. I don’t want to sound like a party pooper, I personally have had a laugh at some of the things I’ve read on the Spotted pages for my University, but for the sake of maintaining social network sites as enjoyable forms of entertainment and not a platform for cyber-bullying, some serious limits need to be put in place.

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