Picture two girls arguing on the playground.
They stand nose-to-nose, hurling insults. Deep down inside, neither girl really wants to fight; neither girl wants to be known as the girl that doesn't want to fight either. As the crowd builds around them, waiting to see (or in this case, tape) the fight, someone will likely instigate the action: "Come on, what are y'all gonna do? Hit that b--!"
And the fight ensues.
On Facebook, the argument is likely to begin as a passive/aggressive status update, calling the enemy out, and only the poster's "Friends" have a clue about what is going on. One of the 'Friends' becomes the instigator, and nestled safely behind the computer screen (or on her smart phone) she'll post a comment to the passive/aggressive status post, or share it with the intended enemy: "OMG. Did she just put you on blast like that?"
And the battle of the status updates ensue. Unlike the playground fight, the Facebook beef won't go away anytime soon because there is a written history of the insults exchanged, and more eyeballs are sure to Like, share, and take screen captures of the beef to keep the mess going.
Just like the two girls on the playground, neither Facebook enemy wants to appear to bow out of the beef first, so a real-life resolution must occur.
Most times, the resolutions are fights; sometimes it ends in murder. In Chicago, 14-year-old Endia Martin was gunned down when a fight over a boy led to a Facebook beef.
Endia's stepfather, Kent Kennedy, told the Chicago Tribune Endia and the suspect had been feuding on Facebook. "They had words and she gunned our daughter down. For what? What reason would another girl gun down another child?
I am currently touring college campuses with The Black Social Network play, an educational skit (sponsored by GM_Diversity) that is designed to encourage college students to be mindful of their online reputations. In my conversations with students, I have been told that reputation is everything; and when a conflict arises on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, it is absolutely imperative to get the last word.
One study proved it.
"What's taking place online is what's taking place in the streets," David Pyrooz, an assistant professor at Sam Houston State University who has studied gangs and social media in five big cities, told MSN. "The Internet does more for a gang's brand or a gang member's identity than word-of-mouth could ever do. It really gives the gang a wide platform to promote their reputations. They can brag about women, drugs, fighting ... and instead of boasting to five gang members on a street corner, they can go online and it essentially goes viral. It's like this electronic graffiti wall that never gets deleted."
For some, when a Facebook beef gets out of control, violence and murder is considered a brutal form of reputation management.
The beef needs to stop online before it manifests in real-life.
This is going to be a long, hot summer in Chicago, and in major cities all across the country, so we must re-educate our teens, employ them, and inspire them to want to win and live--not beef, fight and die.
Zondra Hughes is CEO of the Six Brown Chicks and executive producer of The Black Social Network Play college tour. Follow her on Twitter @zondrahughes.
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