The Dark Side of Social Media Popularity

dark side social media
The persistence to be popular on social media has the potential to blind one to decency or take a dangerous toll on one’s mental health.
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Someone “liked” your witty post on Facebook. Good for you!

A few people began following you on Twitter. You’re pleasantly surprised when a video you post gets a lot of views. All this attention can make you feel happy. You can feel your opinion or work is validated, perhaps in a way you don’t in your “real life” interactions.

The truth is, there are downsides to chasing social media approval, from developing addictive or isolating behaviors, to the type of disturbing incident we detail below.

Blinded by YouTube fame

There are hundreds of prank channels on YouTube. Most of the time, the pranks are in good fun and everyone shares a laugh in the end.

But one channel did what other channels typically do not: Make children the victims of pranks. And not just a silly prank like Jimmy Kimmel’s well-known “I Told My Kid I Ate All Their Halloween Candy” prank.

The “pranks” that Mike and Heather Martin were documenting and uploading to their YouTube channel, DaddyOFive, were emotional and physical abuse inflicted upon their children…for millions to see.

All for the sake of views, likes, and ultimately, money.

Mike and Heather Martin are now under investigation by Child Protective Services. They’ve lost custody of their five children. Two of the children are in the custody of their biological mother.

The issue came to light after some YouTubers reported the couple’s channel, with popular YouTube personality, Philip DeFranco highlighting the abuse he saw happening in a video titled, “WOW… We Need To Talk About This…”

Asked by The Washington Post to watch the couple’s videos, John Caffaro, a psychologist who treats abused children, said he “was distressed and had trouble sitting through the videos forwarded.”

In a video that sparked the beginning of this couple’s turn-of-events, we can see and hear them screaming and cursing – accusing – son Cody for spilling ink all over the floor. Cody becomes distressed, his face turns red and he cries and screams back that he didn’t do it (because he didn’t).

Many of the family’s other videos seem to show the same kind of abuse taking place. One video shows Mike push his son into a bookshelf; a few minutes later, blood can be seen on his son’s pillow.

Since the family’s fall from YouTube stardom (they amassed over 750,000 subscribers), all videos have been taken down from their channel – except for one: It’s titled “DaddyOFive Founders Issue Public Apology.” In this video, the couple acknowledges they “put things on the Internet that should not be there.”

The dangers of chasing social media stardom

With a large following on YouTube, Mike and Heather Martin could monetize their videos. And they did. Because they were making money from exploiting their children online, they got caught up in the cycle of chasing fame.

In their apology video, Heather acknowledges the reality:

“We went from something that wasn’t so bad, and then we just kept going more and more for the shock factor versus reality to see what could get more views.”

Obviously, the way they chased those views was a mistake. This mistake has potentially cost them their kids, their reputations and their livelihood.

But what lessons can the average person take from this disturbing case?

Whether on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube, many social media users are on the unhealthy mission of obtaining “likes,” views and overall fame. Numerous studies point to the connection between social media addiction and mental health issues, such as depression.

The persistence to be popular on social media has the potential to blind one to decency or take a dangerous toll on one’s mental health.

While it may be nice to see that someone on the Internet “liked” something you shared, it’s best to not let it get to your head.

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