There’s been a story floating around the news cycle this week of a teenage girl in the States who live-streamed her friend being raped.
Marina Lonina, an 18-year-old high school student from New Albany High School in Ohio, has been accused of live-streaming the rape of her 17-year-old friend by an older man. Lonina, who faces a multitude of charges from the February incident, has pleaded not guilty.
“She’s in the habit of filming everything with this app called Periscope,” Lonina’s lawyer, Sam Shamansky told the ABC. “She does everything possible to contain the situation even to the point of asking while it’s being filmed to these Periscope followers, ‘What should I do now? What should I do now?’”
— WSYX ABC 6 (@wsyx6) April 16, 2016
If we are to believe Shamansky, Lonina was just a girl in a helpless situation. Why then has she (and the 29-year-old man she’s been charged alongside) been charged with rape, kidnapping, sexual battery and pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor? Surely, as an 18-year-old you know the difference between right and wrong? Surely you know as well as take video, your phone can call the police?
Unfortunately for this next generation (born between 1997-2004), Generation Z, this line has become increasingly blurred. Has this generation, commonly referred to as the ‘lost generation’, become so out of touch, so under-the-influence of social media, they no longer have any trace of common sense? It certainly seems so.
Yes, I know I am generalising, but this is not a unique case.
Take the two 13-year-old girls who stabbed their 12-year-old friend 19 times back in 2014. The reason for this malicious act? To please a fictional online character called ‘Slenderman’.
Or the three teenage boys who have been charged with sexually assaulting a teenage girl and posting images and video on their Snapchats.
Teens today have more access to information than ever before. They have been raised in a world where anything you could ever need to know is just a Google search away. They've been brought in to a time where smart phones, tablets, and smart watches are the norm. Despite all this, the biggest influencer on teens today is actually themselves. Through social media.
Smartphones have been both beneficial and detrimental to our society. With young people posting their every move on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, it's hard not to leave behind a paper trail.
As part of Gen Y, I have had my fare share of flack from the older generations. Baby Boomers and Generation X love to remind us how we expect too much for too little work, how we constantly demand pay rises, yet have nothing to show for it, and how we think we're so entitled when really we just know what we're worth. So, as much as I despair to perpetuate traditions passed down, I can't help but thank my lucky stars I missed the Generation Z boat.
Project Consent is an international nonprofit campaign that aims to combat sexual assault and rape culture by raising awareness and educating young people. You can watch their video below. Post continues after video.
Sometimes I think about what it must be like to be a high school-aged student today. How are you meant to soak up any knowledge with the enticements of Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram staring at you from your blank phone screen sitting on the corner of your desk. Heck, I remember getting in trouble for even keeping my flip phone on my desk during the last years of high school, and the only thing it was good for then were texts.
It's not only messages teens now receive, it's tags, tweets, snaps, and, perhaps the thing they're most consumed by, 'likes'.
"Our online persona is needier than our real one," Tom Gara from The Wall Street Journal said.
"People are addicted. We experience withdrawals. We are so driven by this drug, getting just one hit elicits truly peculiar reactions," automatic liking app Lovematically creator, Rameet Chawla told the Daily Dot. He then likened the feeling on receiving likes to smoking crack cocaine.
If likes are a drug, then is Shamansky's argument to why Lonina filmed the horrific act because she's 'in the habit of filming everything' plausible? Isn't this just like arguing she did it because, well, teens will be teens?
There's no doubt about it. What Lonina did was atrocious. Whether or not she was 'doing it for the likes', she was witness to another human being sexually assaulted right in front of her and her only concern was to make sure she live streamed it to her peers.
Unfortunately Lonina's act of over-sharing to the point where it's criminal is a reflection of the society we now live in.