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Social networking sites are the new Dungeons & Dragons

January 9, 2009
by

My chosen profession of sexual violence prevention is as prone to buzz and “hot-button issues” as any other, and I’ve been hearing a lot about internet safety over the past 2 years. Usually it goes something like this: “What are we gonna do with these kids?! They’re postin’ half-necked pictures of themsleves, and Johnny Pervert is just waiting to make his move. This ‘Myspace’ is an EVIL influence on our kids!”

Then I proceed to inform everyone in the meeting/conference/whatever, that I’m on Myspace and Facebook, most of my friends are on Myspace and Facebook, and pretending that social networking sites CAUSE sexual assaults against youth is: A) fucking ridiculous (OK, so I don’t say “fucking”), and B) takes the responsibility off of the perpetrators who are the ones CHOOSING to perpetrate. Social networking sites are just their tools du jour. I suppose it used to be candy, hence “Don’t take candy from strangers.” But we didn’t try to villify candy did we?

It’s not that I think there shouldn’t be protections/limits on these sites, and I’m glad that people are out there educating the masses about the potential perils of online social networking. I just get frustrated when people take that next leap to causation, because doing so can have serious repercussions on the allocation of already-sparse sexual violence prevention resources. They see a relatively easy “solution” (e.g., destroy Myspace!) to an incredibly complex problem (sexual violence against youth), and jump on it. In the process they spend a ton of time and energy barking up the wrong tree, completely missing that big-assed forest.

When I hear arguments or news stories about Myspace/Facebook being scourges on our society, it reminds me of when I was 11 and my parents made me stop playing Dungeons & Dragons (aka, D&D, which I loved and still love to this day – go ahead and make your jokes). They watched some Geraldo Rivera “expose” on how D&D corrupts youth and causes kids to jump in front of trains – as if they were a 9th level magic-user with a sweet Telekinesis spell. But it was all bullshit. D&D was/is a game. It might have its faults (which have all been corrected thanks to Version 3.5 thank you very much), but it can’t COMPEL anyone to commit suicide/homicide.

Myspace/Facebook are online-communities/marketing-machines/douchebag-magnets run by corporations. They certainly have their faults, but they sure as hell can’t compel anyone to commit sexual assault. Period.

Oh and Gary Gygax, RIP.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. CKS permalink
    January 9, 2009 6:40 pm

    B.P. … we should totally get together at the NSVC and run a module. Yee haw!

    C.K.S.

  2. perrybc permalink
    January 9, 2009 7:07 pm

    Oh, and to be clear, I’m using the term “douchebag” in the “obsolete,” “pointless,” and “laughable” sense. NOT in a misogynistic context.

  3. CKS permalink
    January 9, 2009 9:31 pm

    Whoops, I meant at the NSAC (National Sexual Assault Conference), not NSVC – whatever that is. In terms of your post, I agree that social networking sites are the fearful fallacy du jour – just like D&D, rock & roll, and the jitterbug were in their days. I am, at my ripe middle age, already starting to experience occasional abhorrence at the activities of “kids these days.”

    I think that social networking is suffering less from this effect than other cultural shifts, since there are opportunities for nay-sayers of all ages to participate in social networking (unlike the jitterbug). If I can get my Mom to text message her updates to Facebook, anything can happen.

    In our field, however, I think that we have a concentrated exposure to vague social fears… and I have seen enough tech-terror trainings go by to know that we definitely contribute to those fears!

    About your “douche bag” faux pas, I think your character will have to take a (small) penalty to his/her WIS role for that one. Do they still have WIS in version 3.5? I am so stuck in second edition. At least I don’t play magic.

  4. Penn permalink
    January 9, 2009 11:03 pm

    D&D 4e is superior in my mind, but otherwise I completely agree. 🙂

  5. perrybc permalink
    January 10, 2009 12:00 pm

    Oh – and sorry for all of the edits…I kept noticing little punctuation/grammar things. I’m a bit new to blogging…I’ll stop obsessing with the edits now.

  6. perrybc permalink
    January 10, 2009 4:43 pm

    Chad – Oh I happily use the term “douchebag” under certain circumstances. For a hilarious (though probably harmless in the grand scheme of douchebaggery) representation of the sort of person I have in mind when using the term, go here (make sure your sound is on for the full effect):

    Ha ha…that shit never fails to crack me up. I’d be willing to bet these guys LOVE social networking sites. If for no other reason than to post 183 shirtless-in-bathroom-mirror photos. I know it’s petty of me to make such observations, but I’ve had to deal with too man brahs of this sort, so rather than get annoyed I make fun.

  7. A'Llyn permalink
    January 16, 2009 1:37 pm

    Interesting comparison…I like that. There’s definitely this tendency towards a sort of general alarm at whatever is the ‘weird new thing’ those freaky kids are up to these days. I don’t do it or get it! It must be scary and evil!

    Also, D&D Forever! We’re trying to get a game going right now. I miss my characters.

  8. January 29, 2009 5:50 am

    I think its hard for even slightly older generations to get used to the idea of interacting through social networking sites and they pass off what they don’t know as “evil” and “wrong.” But if you join a social networking site and start to use it, its clear they have their positive and negative aspects. Personally I find myspace to be integral to professional networking as a performance artist (far more than facebook, which seems to be the place I find all of the ghosts of my past).
    What I find really interesting is class-based perceptions and biases … i.e. that Facebook is more professional. Because Facebook was started by Ivy League students, it tends to have a bit more “clout” than Myspace … whereas Myspace is passed off as open to the “masses” (read bad bad bad internet porn).
    In Facebook, you’re not allowed to use performance names or nicknames, whereas MYspace is open to performance names (and therefore also more open to the potential “evils” of internet porn, etcetera) … My mother has recently joined Facebook (which I find to be filled with silly fratboy applications like “pass your friend a drink” and “throw a snowball at your friend” blah blah). She told me that she had heard that “myspace” was much less professional and “silly.” I think this is a class-based bias that stems from Facebook’s origins of networking of anyone in higher education.

  9. January 29, 2009 6:43 am

    Oh a bit more on class divisions and Myspace / Facebook:

    http://www.danah.org/papers/essays/ClassDivisions.html

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/jun/26/usa.news

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