James Franco’s Instagram incident this weekend paints a dismal picture of our generation’s current state of relationship. It’s just one of many cases exemplifying how social media has distorted the lens through which we perceive and interact with the world-complicating the way we see ourselves and others.
On Friday, Franco confessed on Live With Kelly and Michael that he flirted, via Instagram, with a 17-year-old Scottish girl he met after performing in New York City. He took a quick video with her outside of his stage door that night and told her, “You gotta tag me”-of course, she did.
She received a number of private messages and texts from the Spidermanactor not long after, asking her if she wanted him to get a hotel room so they could meet up. The girl was hesitant, wanting “proper evidence” confirming Franco’s identity-and she got it. He sent her a selfie, in which he held up a piece of paper with her name, “Lucy,” written on it. Despite Franco’s request that she “don’t tell,” screen shots of the entire conversation found their way online. The hookup never happened.
The situation seems a little “dodgy,” as Lucy put it in one of her texts. What is most alarming, though, is not Franco pursuing a young, teenage girl-since 17 is the legal age of consent in N.Y.-but, rather, the fact that Franco thought that this was a good way for him to start a relationship.
In his televised admission, Franco said, “I’m embarrassed, and I guess I’m just a model of how social media is tricky. It’s a way people meet each other today.”
While his actions were debatably wrong, his explanation was definitely right-social media is indeed “tricky.” Things like Instagram and Snapchat are changing the way we relate to each other, and not for the better.
Franco isn’t the only one who has recently fallen victim to the threats of social media, however. Last month a photo of Miley Cyrus, naked and in a bed with an unnamed male fan, circulated the Internet. The fan took a Snapchat, sent it, and captioned it, “Miley Cyrus F-ers,” triumphantly claiming to have slept with the pop star after a concert. Everyone believed the image was real until this week when a rep claimed, “It’s not her,” but someone who closely resembles her.
The fan may have impressed his friends for a short while, but what did they think when they discovered the picture was a scam? It’s hard to deny that this whole thing places him in a poor light.
Incidents like these demonstrate how, as a generation, we’re relying on our camera phones to create connections. We’re taking selfies, but are we really showing people our selves? Not really. People are seeing either what we want them to see-our lives filtered and cropped, like with the fake Cyrus Snapchat-or, as in Franco’s case, what we don’t want them to see, interpreting the image of ourselves we put forward differently from how we would have wanted them to.
These two examples may make it seem as if only celebrities are influenced by the “trickiness” of social media, but new data by Edison Research and Triton Digital suggests that the majority of 12- to 24-year olds are frequent users of photo-sharing applications and sites, too. Forty three percent of us use Snapchat, and more than half of us use Instagram. That’s a lot, and it’s scary to think about just how many people our age have fallen into the same trap that Franco and Cyrus’ fan did, taking advantage of social media in the worst ways.
Friends and family may be seeing a lot more of us, since it’s not hard to share pictures, but often, they’re not seeing who we actually are. A picture is said to say 1,000 words, but perhaps that’s not enough, especially when a Snapchat lasts for no more than 10 seconds, or when an Instagram is edited to the point that it’s difficult to tell what the original image even looked like.
Because it’s so easy to misconstrue, social media may not be the best way for us to present ourselves to other people, even though we’re all using it. The Franco and Cyrus’ fan happenings prove that we need something less “tricky.” We need a more direct angle.