This morning, I was intrigued by the news on the large number of teenage rape victims as the result of their interaction with strangers from social media. In Depok, a junior high school student was raped by her social network friend, a minivan driver. In the United States, a 19-year-old man charged with raping 13-year-old female friend he met on Facebook. In fact, a man from Lexington County, 35-year-old William Spivey was jailed for allegedly asking a 13 year old boy to have sex with him. Luckily, Spivey’s demand was later discovered by the victim’s mother.
After the turn of the millennium, information technology is developing very rapidly. I remember when I was madly in love in university (1997-1998), I had to wait early in the morning to wait for telecommunication kiosk to open so I could to get a discount for long distance calling. Whereas now (in 2012), telecommunication kiosks are history and turned into a grocery shop or copy center. Then, to access the internet can only be done in paid internet cafes. Now, with GPRS-featured cell phone, anybody can access social media online.
Why can the teenagers, our young brothers and sisters, build relationship so easily with total strangers through social media in cyberspace, then meet, when anything can go wrong?
Allow me to answer it using the psychology point of view. Please correct me if I’m wrong. ^ _ ^
1. Social media is a representation of a person in the virtual world environment. Environment is where a person is located, interact, and show identity. Many factors can affect the ‘success’ of a person in the neighborhood, one of which is personality.
2. Personality, which I simply divide into two types: Introvert and Extrovert. For someone with Introvert personality type, most visible traits in the social environment behavior are: quiet, passive, less talk, do not want to stand out among the others. On the contrary, someone who Extrovert personality type, has the following characteristics: outgoing, talkative, active, and willing to step up to the plate, and so on.
Now, this is where it gets more interesting. A person with the introvert personality the real world sometimes thinks, “Ah, wouldn’t it be fun, if I could be as active and have so many friends as Fulan.” Social media in the virtual world provides the opportunity for people with introvert personality to have a chance to practice their extrovert side.
Only by signing in, posting profile picture, filling out a bio, writing status, and adding friends. On the “adding friends” part, maybe it didn’t cross their minds, friends in social media are different to the friends they normally interact with in schools. In social media, a person’s image can be manufactured totally the opposite of the original character. It is often to deceive for our younger peers with unstable personality.
Adolescence is one of many phases of human development, when they start experiencing the formation of identity and a change towards a strong and steady identity. This phase is quite difficult for the teenagers themselves, especially if they didn’t have appropriate and significant role models to them. It is very important and significant for the parents to play the role of good role models.
3. High level of competition-in every aspect- today causing people to develop this tendency of wanting to have everything right here and right now. Among teens today, the level of competition is already at very high level, it can be in many forms including cell phone. Once their friends are getting smart phones, while the only cell phone they can afford is a cell phone for texting, teenagers can get depressed and experience immediate urge to replace their ‘old school’ cell phone to smart phone, even smarter than what their friends have.
Competition can also emerge in social life; other friends began to date or go out. For some teens with unstable personality, may feel depressed and also have the same desire with other friends. But alas, in the real world, they failed to present themselves nicely to attract the opposite sex. Failing in the real world, they are giving their best shots to build relationships in social media. Little did they know, when they are not equipped with tools of insight and knowledge in how to have a healthy relationship in the virtual world, they are setting their own trap.
4. Senses. I still remember clearly in Psychology 101, God bestowed human beings, men and women, with different attributes. The men are creatures easily aroused by visual stimuli, tend to only concentrate on one thing at a time, they love to play, and so on. While women are more auditory-oriented, like beauty, able to do many things simultaneously, and are generally more sensitive to the feelings.
From the victims’ perspective (women), when they want to present themselves in social media, of course they want the best visual display on their profile picture and photo albums. From the actors’ perspective (men), they try to have good communication skills so that in the end of the day, they could ensnare the victims.
Usually the perpetrators do not display the actual and clear profile photos; they prefer to use pictures other than themselves. Even more complex in the virtual world, a person can choose the gender. Man being a woman, or vice versa. Yikes … scary huh?
Inadequate knowledge of the healthy ways to interact in the virtual world fueled with a unstable personality, could ultimately lead to the situation that could harm the young women, for example, would be invited to meet with friends in social media whose true personalities are still unknown.
In this condition, the men with bad intention will take advantage. And there are so many cases similar to the one I reviewed above.
Therefore, I would like to end this article with a few simple tips:
1. We should raise our children to have a strong personality.
2. We must be able to establish open communication with our children.
3. We should have some activities with our children, so that the children feel more comfortable with the parents or doing activities with his family than with strangers.
4. Social media is a part of our daily lives, we cannot prevent it, but we can control it.
5. If you have internet access at home, you must have control on which sites allowed to be accessed by children.
6. As parents, try always allocate time for our children, despite the busy schedule. Little attention at the right time, God willing, will have a significant impact to the future.
Wijanarko Dwi Utomo
An Alumnus of Psychology Faculty Padjadjaran University year 1997, love to write, and try to learn through others writings.
This article has been edited and translated.
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