Back when I was in junior high, a group of girls started creating “Slam Books”. They were notebooks passed around to other students, and people would anonymously write funny, sometimes not so funny, things about someone else. In 2004,a similar version of our old slam books was portrayed in the movie, Mean Girls. But in the movie, they were called “Burn Books” and were filled with mean and hurtful comments. I honestly had forgotten all about slam books until recently when the same idea resurfaced….only in a much more public forum.
Today, they are called “shade rooms” or “tea rooms”. And there is nothing funny or amusing about them. In fact, the sole purpose of a shade room is to publicly humiliate and embarrass other classmates. It starts with students creating anonymous accounts on Instagram and promising anonymity to anyone who sends the “tea”…aka, gossip….about other students. Because people’s full names are often written out, no guesswork is required to determine who is being called out. This, in turn, often leads to harassment or bullying from others. In fact, the anonymity created by the tea room can often make the situation even worse because the victim has no idea who is attacking them.
Instagram does have community guidelines that prohibits harassment or bullying, and they do try to remove such accounts when they are notified of them. Unfortunately, the damage is already done by the time the account is reported. And if you follow us here at Neptune Navigate at all, you’ve heard us say over and over that thanks to screenshots, nothing is ever private or really deleted in the digital world
To be fair, not all tea rooms or shade rooms are bad. There are a few that are created with the purpose of posting positive or funny comments. Proving, once again, that technology isn’t all bad. It’s the ways in which we use it. Let’s all make a conscious effort to be, and encourage others to be, positive and encouraging when we are online.