For this week’s blog post, I’m going to delve into one of my more recent hobbies: diamond painting. As a result of successive lockdowns and the ongoing pandemic, I found myself in need of a new hobby. I’ve always done a lot of crafts, mostly cross stitch, ceramics painting, and other more obscure activities. However, when my mother took up this new craft and suggested I give it a go, I jumped at the chance. Now, I have been sucked into the world of social media diamond painters.
The diamond painting community is surprisingly diverse. I had expected it to be mostly middle-aged women (which it is), but there are a surprising number of men who enjoy it as well. It’s popular with children, mostly girls, and women of all ages. The men tend to be middle aged or older, though, and are in the minority. People with this hobby can be split into three distinct groups: those who prefer round drills (diamonds), those who prefer square drills, and those who like both. This hobby is popular all over the world and diamond painters flock to social media to exchange tips, ideas, and store recommendations.
The most effective tools for communicating with this audience would be blogs/vlogs and Facebook. Community members enjoy displaying and sharing their completed work and exchanging information about the best places to buy from and how best to frame or fix the images once completed. Blogs would be a useful way of sharing projects, as would sites like Pinterest. However, the biggest communities of diamond painters can be found in Facebook groups. There are many such groups, some organised by geographical location or language, while others have a global following. Getting a message out about new products, for example, would be best done in these groups.
What hobbies do you have? Do they have large followings or dedicated groups on social media?
We all know the good side of social media: making new friends, posting awesome vacation pics, keeping up-to-date with the latest news and celebrity gossip, and wasting a few hours going down the YouTube rabbit hole. But social media isn’t all sunshine and roses. It has a dark side, and it’s easier to get sucked into it than you’d think…
I Challenge Thee to a Duel!
We’ve all heard of internet challenges. From the Diet Coke and Mentos challenge to the Planking Challenge, they’re a fun distraction and keep young people entertained. Some of them are even helpful, such as 2014’s Ice Bucket Challenge, which raised over $220 million worldwide for ALS charities. But sometimes, they go wrong. The most famous example that had deadly consequences is the Tide Pod Challenge.
For those who have been living under a rock, the Tide Pod Challenge was floating around the internet in 2018 and was said to encourage teens to eat laundry detergent pods. Its origins go back to 2013, when eating Tide Pods became a meme. It circulated around the internet for a few years, with most people seeing it as a joke. In 2018, however, it resurfaced and gained popularity, leading to intrepid teenagers filming themselves eating the laundry pods and posting the clips on YouTube and Facebook. Sounds crazy, right? Still, several people took part in the challenge and encouraged others to do the same. Internet challenges are all fun and games until someone gets poisoned…
The Tide Pod Challenge isn’t the only such challenge to get out of hand. In 2020, a similar trend emerged on TikTok encouraging people to overdose on the antihistamine drug Benadryl. It seems that common sense doesn’t always factor into internet challenges.
Why Would I Need a Mask? I’m not Batman!
A lot of people use social media to stay informed on current affairs and to share knowledge and information. However, one of the risks of social media is that the content isn’t controlled. Anyone can post anything they like (within reason), which often leads to misinformation being spread much further that it would have done in the past.
Internet misinformation isn’t a new phenomenon. It has always been used for people to express their views uninhibited, no matter how extreme those views may be. However, in recent years the situation has taken a slightly more dangerous turn. There have always been risks to social media misinformation, such as encouraging reckless behaviour or spreading falsehoods that can encourage prejudicial attacks. In the last year, however, we’ve seen an uptick in false claims, wacky virus cures, and downright deadly behaviour.
The ongoing pandemic has been a hotbed of misinformation and has seen the rise of some very dangerous information. Anti-maskers have been protesting mandatory mask mandates, claiming that their Google searches and shared posts trump the medical degrees held by the doctors advising the government. Since the beginning of the rollout, antivaxxers have also been taking to social media to expound on the risks of the COVID-19 vaccine. Some people even post on social media in an attempt to convince people that the virus is a hoax. Such behaviour undoubtedly has already cost lives, and countless more people duped by these internet “experts” are likely to succumb to the disease in the future.
Social media has also been an outlet for fake COVID cures and preventions. A certain world leader’s claims that disinfectant could be used to cure the virus blew up the internet, with Lysol having to make a public statement that their products should not be consumed. Another viral (no pun intended) piece of misinformation that popped up all over social media as the use of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria medication, as a possible preventative drug.
If drinking bleach didn’t kill you, then taking malaria tablets that increase the risk of heart failure might just do the trick.
It’s All Fun and Games Until Somebody Loses a Life
Internet challenges are often fun, even if some take a somewhat dangerous turn. However, another social media trend that doesn’t even pretend to be innocent often leads to self harm and even suicide.
Dangerous games are nothing new. They are often aimed at vulnerable and naïve young people who are easily led down a dark path. Some internet trends in recent years have tapped into the teenage lust for a dangerous thrill and have encouraged such behaviour as setting yourself on fire, burning yourself with salt and ice, and cutting yourself and posting photographs of the evidence. Such trends often fly under the radar until parents start to notice the damage their children are doing to themselves, by which point it is often too late. Young people who are suffering from mental health problems such as anxiety and depression are particularly vulnerable and, in some cases, the outcome can be tragic.
Another phenomenon that is not unique to the modern internet era is mass suicide. The internet, and social media, have made it increasingly easy for people to find groups of like-minded individuals, which occasionally leads to tragedy. In Japan, social media and specific websites have been linked to suicide pacts since 2003 and the phenomenon does not look like it will slow down anytime soon.
It’s not just suicidal people who can be led to take their own lives by anonymous internet users. In 2015, a young girl in Russia committed suicide in an event that would take Russian social media by storm. Her death was linked so the Russian social network VKontakte, on which she had been an active participant in several very specific groups. After her death, a picture began to emerge of an online game called the Blue Whale Challenge, wherein players would complete 50 challenges over 50 days. The challenges started off quite benign, but grew more sinister as time went on, culminating in suicide as the final challenge.
The image of the blue whale became linked to this challenge and after the deaths of two other teenagers, rumours began to spread, and articles appeared in the media citing this new internet challenge as the cause. The details of the challenge were hard to pin down and despite an arrest being made of the so-called instigator of the challenge, it was ultimately concluded that the challenge wasn’t real, but rather a trend that had gained momentum due to its infamy, rather than its real existence. It is not known how many teenagers took their lives in connection with this challenge, but many were linked to the image of the blue whale and the internet forums frequented by the earliest victims. Hoax or not, the Blue Whale Challenge indisputably led to tragedy for many families.
So What Next?
Social media is undoubtedly a useful tool and a source of amusement for people across the globe. However, it is important to keep in mind that it is also a double edged sword with a dark side. So, make sure you keep an eye out for misinformation and check your facts. Look at internet games and challenges with a critical eye. And, most importantly, look out for your vulnerable friends and family, because you never know where social media may lead them.