Cut out the Cut for Bieber jokes, it’s no laughing matter
Apparently Bieber fever has a new symptom: emotional blackmail. Justin Bieber is eighteen years old and supposedly last week smoked a joint. In response, his fans (prompted by a cruel hoax) have taken to Twitter in the #cutforbieber campaign, which at its core says “you stop doing drugs, we’ll stop cutting”.
The internet has been flooded with images of mutilated arms, real and fake, in a strange bid to save Bieber from himself. The trolls that started this are sick and have a lot to answer for.
This whole situation brings up a number of problems, the most serious of which is the way it has thrust cutting into the public eye whilst simultaneously downplaying its severity, and, even worse, making it the butt of jokes. Those who started encouraging fans to “cut for Bieber” but they couldn’t have picked a more vulnerable target.
[The story so far: Hoaxers decided to try to convince people to cut themselves for Bieber. Some fans then took it seriously, while others took it as a joke. Then it was revealed that hoaxers (new ones, or maybe the same ones) were planning to fake a teenager’s suicide and blame Bieber for it…]
Cutting at its most severe is something secretive; there have been limited studies done, and the data they gained are vague. What they did gather is that the most common time for a person to start self harming is in their teens, with some studies suggesting as many as 1 in every 200 girls between the ages of thirteen and nineteen has tried cutting. I’d be happy to wager that most of Bieber’s dedicated fans are girls in this age bracket.
The pictures going up online are disturbing. Some show fresh cuts on scarred arms showing that it is not the poster’s first time. Others are accompanied by messages about how cutting may hurt, but not as much as the hurt they feel from Justin’s “actions”.
One girl just posted a picture of a row of stitches on her wrist accompanied by the text “This is because of you @justinbieber. Just got out of the hospital. STOP SMOKING.”
On the other side of this are the people posting pictures of themselves “cutting” the lawn. Or their hair. Or pieces of paper. Some are simply messages telling the world how stupid the cutters are or telling them that there are more serious things in the world to cut about.
All of it is harmful.
First of all, even if Bieber did smoke, this is a huge over-reaction. The report wasn’t that he was injecting heroin into his eyes whilst getting tested for STIs due to a prostitute addiction, it was that he may have smoked weed. This is based on a picture of him holding what may or may not be a joint and rumours of his drug taking which have circulated for a few weeks.
If true, oh well. Bieber isn’t there to be a role model – he is a singer. Same as Bob Marley. Same as Amy Winehouse. Same as Britney Spears. Leave Bieber Alone!
It is cruel to place all this responsibility on an eighteen year old who, ironically, may not have smoked at all. However, when he loads up his computer and looks at this response – he will probably want to.
Priorities are skewed if people feel like it is appropriate to mutilate themselves and post pictures of it online because their favourite celebrity smoked a joint, but joining in and laughing at it is harmful in another way.
This whole scenario makes for an easy meme, but the lasting impact of this campaign could be severe. Self harm is on the rise, and through internet trolling, an entire demographic of impressionable teens has been introduced to it for an entirely beat up and stupid reason.
Self harm is a sign of underlying mental disease or distress. It should not ever be used for emotional blackmail, and it certainly shouldn’t be laughed off, and lumped in with the knee-jerk reaction of a group of tweeters. Cutting is not something you do because your favourite popstar did a thing you didn’t understand or like.
The damage #cutforbieber is doing isn’t just to the gullible few who post real pictures and who honestly think that this is the right thing to do. It makes a joke of cutting, and by extension, of those who need help, not a punchline.
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