Dragged For ‘Clout’: What You Need To Know About The Internet’s Vicious New Trend

Denise Curtin explains why she's worried about the internet's ever-growing dark side. 

We all know cancel culture is rife, but 2020 has seen a rise in a vicious new trend where people are victimised and publicly dragged for ‘clout’.

Clout: having power or influence. In the realm of social media, clout tends to be a combination of popularity and power. The more clout one has, the more influence they’re deemed to have other others.

When you think about it, social media is all a numbers game really, isn’t it? How many likes, how many views, how many retweets, how many mentions, how many comments and how many followers can I stack up from the content I put out into the world.

It’s a numbers game and there’s no denying that it influences us all. Whether we actively work on it or subconsciously feel that boost in serotonin when more people than usual like our recent photo on the ‘gram, the figures play a large part in how we feel and how we analyse what others like to engage with.

I couldn’t even begin to tell you the number of times my emotions have been directly impacted by my own social media, making me require some time offline and more time spent in the real world. It’s scary to think I could get so fixated on a number that it has the power of either making me feel invincible or literally reducing me to tears. And that’s the sad reality of it all.

But the lengths in which people are now going to in a hope to feel that buzz, that rush of interaction and that moment in the  “spotlight” is another thing; evolving to a place that’s far from putting up a nice OOTN and hoping for a little lift.

Stemming from cancel culture, whereby people pile onto public figures, calling them out for bad behaviour, past actions and dangerous judgement to name a few things, a new breed of cyberbullying is beginning to form. This type of online harassment sees users pick on certain people – often those with a large following, and publicly drag, mimic and taunt them for the enjoyment of others online.

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Rife on TikTok, the video sharing, social networking app dominated by the Gen-Z community, one flick through the platform’s For You page will show you multiple examples whereby users are gaining thousands of likes, views and comments for victimising others, openly admitting to doing so for clout and the attention they garner off others.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with TikTok, if I was to describe this sort of bullying for clout on the app, I’d describe it as a digital schoolyard. You’ve got the victim, the bully, and the crowd gathered around in a circle, jeering, reacting and watching the harassment unfold.

The problem with it occurring on apps like TikTok however, is that it’s not happening on a schoolyard, it’s happening on a very public domain, where the world is the audience and the freedom to act out, gain recognition and remain untouched is the perfect breeding ground for trolls.

One Irish TikTok personality, Niamh O’Connor, who goes by the name Kneevo on the viral video app, has openly spoke about the hate and harassment she has received online in the past year. With over 182,500 followers and 13.3 million likes, Kneevo removed herself from the app for over a month to focus on her career, after she became inundated with people posting hurtful videos and comments about her. Just one malicious hashtag about the 23-year-old received over 700,000 views, an upsetting figure highlighting just how eager people are to bandwagon on hate, and hurt others online for their own personal gain.

Speaking on Instagram, Niamh explained that TikTok became a part of her life which was too “toxic” and so, she felt it was important to step away. “I just feel like social media has made people forget so many things. It has made people forget that making mistakes is a normal part of living, it has made people loose human empathy for other people and yeah, it’s just not something that I want to contribute to anymore.”

Continuing, the Drogheda native explained that she wants to be a “normal 23-year-old girl” and felt like a weight was lifted off her shoulders when she left the video app.

In the year 2020, where movements like #BeKind continue to clamour for change, pressing individuals to think more about the impact of their words online and educating them on how they can do better, it’s upsetting to see hate is continuing to triumph; taking on new forms and enticing more people, even younger than before.

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The very nature of social media is to react and engage, but we’re seeing an increase in rushed judgement, harsh cancellations and upsetting amounts of mob hate, as people rush to be the first to interact, be seen and contribute, without thinking about the consequences.

In recent times, DJ Marty Guilfoyle also became a victim to a torrent of online abuse which lead to him leaving Ireland’s first “TikTok house”. Having to exit a new career venture due to vicious comments on Twitter, Marty spoke about how people’s comments can reach a point “where it’s beyond an opinion and can actually hurt”, while joining Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio One.

Making a worthy take-home point, the SPIN 1038 presenter explained that although there were moments when he nearly got teary eyed while watching the trolling mount online, he remained strong. However, then noted that his worry is: “What if the person on the receiving end of it wasn’t strong enough?”

And, honestly, what happens if they’re not strong enough? What if they can’t handle the mockery videos, comments and tweets made about them? What happens if they can’t handle becoming a chew toy for clout and the victim of another online attack? Because whatever way we dress it up, it’s a real problem that appears to be constantly shapeshifting, targeting more people every single day.

When you hear the word “screen”, you think of protection, a shielding from abuse. However, that’s not the case with the screen in your hand – not only does it not protect you, it can seriously harm your mental health if you don’t manage to control how it makes you feel, or how you use it.

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