On Jan. 6, Justin Bieber was photographed smoking weed. While this isn’t exactly the type of news we usually promote at the Carillon, it brought about a shocking and disturbing revelation about internet culture.
Following the release of these photographs, a group of internet trolls started a twitter trend urging “Beliebers” to cut themselves until Justin swore off drugs of any kind. More disturbing than the troll itself is that young girls actually took to harming themselves in an effort to help Bieber get sober.
The hoax has now been traced back to popular message board, 4chan, and the original post reads: “Tweet a bunch of pics of people cutting themselves and claim we did it because Bieber as smoking weed. See if we can get some little girls to cut themselves.”
Unfortunately, posters on 4chan are anonymous, so very little can be done to find the people responsible for the hoax.
While the twitter trends #cutforbieber, #cutforjustin, and #cuttingforbieber were started as jokes, some fans took the twitter handles seriously, posting pictures of their self-mutilation.
One Twitter user, @dutchminati, posted a picture, with a tagline pleading, “Justin please, I beg you, stop smoking weed or i might actually kill myself.”
With the average age of Bieber’s fans being 14, many people – along with the site 4chan – have shrugged this hoax off as being a platform for obsessed “little girls.”
However, while kissing a poster of Bieber before bed is one thing, cutting oneself is certainly another.
Univeristy of Regina’s Social Studies and Criminology professor, Robert Biezenski, has a theory regarding why this hoax was taken so seriously by some fans.
“We build up these people, we put them on a pedestal,” he said. “We create these stars, and basically tell our young people that this is who you should try to be. This is the definition of success in our society. Of course kids go for it, particularly young girls. Realistically, there’s still fewer opportunities to be successful for women.”
According to Biezenski, these girls seek the attention of Bieber through cutting.
“The mother says to the child ‘If your friend jumped off a cliff, would you jump with him?‘ Well, the answer is yes, a lot of the time,” Biezenski said. “If all my friends are doing this, then yes, I will do it.”
The need to identify with others, noted Biezenski, is the reason #cutforbieber became so popular.
“We build up these people, we put them on a pedestal…we create these stars, and basically tell our young people that this is who you should try to be. This is the definition of success in our society. Of course kids go for it… particularly young girls, I think. Realistically, there’s still fewer opportunities to be successful for women.” – Robert Biezenski
Pamela Olson, a child psychologist in Regina, agrees with this idea.
“Kids are impressionable. At that age, especially, [they] tend to follow the herd,” she said. “That herd mentality is very important, you have to believe and experience the same things in the same way.”
Olson suggests that this fan hysteria is due to the complex hormones of girls in their early teens, and more specifically, that #cutforbieber continued due to the rush of endorphins released when self-mutilating.
“Kids cut for lots of different reasons … it’s addictive. It releases endorphins, so it’s a powerful response that happens. Often there’s a secret attached to it, as well.”
Biezenski also agrees that emotions would have played a large role in pushing young people to cut themselves, and that the issue is much more complex than a disturbing hoax.
“To me, this connects to a problem in a very different area. The problem of slashing in jails is in epidemic proportions. There are women, in jails, in Canada who have literally cut themselves hundreds and thousands of times. The reason they gave was that the physical pain took away the emotional pain.”
While self-mutilation is a very concerning issue that is growing among youth in Canada, what is perhaps most shocking about the #cutforbieber campaign is that teenaged girls felt so devoted to Bieber that cutting themselves made sense.
Biezenski explained this bizarre devotion.
“They form this one sided relationship where, even though they’ve never met Justin Bieber, they’re in love with him, madly. They’re in love with the celebrity image that’s created by the media. They create virtual relationships and love is powerful.”
Regardless of the reasons behind the self-mutilation campaign, the response made it clear that young girls need some more guidance and role models in the celebrity world.
Photo courtesy of sixteenmonthsindominica.blogspot.ca