The Greek philosopher Aristotle said, “Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual.”
Man cannot live alone; he must satisfy some basic needs in order to survive. Socialisation is such a primary need of man. The study of Sociology, defines socialisation as, ‘the process through which people are taught to be proficient members of society’. Hence, one has to form social relationships in order to thrive in society. The need for socialisation is both mental and physical. Therefore, the need for human connect begins with the connection of an embryo with its mother and continues throughout a person’s lifetime. While for the embryo, the need of the mother is more physical than mental, for the mother, it is the other way round.
The introduction of humanity to Social Media revolutionised how one socialises. It created a virtual bubble for people to be anyone they wanted to be and permitted free engagement with the world at large beyond immediate social circles. While social media has a lot of advantages, it comes with its dark side too. It has been re-emphasised time and again how dangerous the reckless use of social media can be. Where on one hand social media allows people to exercise their freedom of speech and expression, on the other hand, it becomes the responsibility of the users to ensure that they are not misusing their opportunity to do so.
The recent incident that took over Instagram by a storm, exposed the dark side of the web. It was a classic example of what happens when one does not use social media responsibly.
What is the Bois Locker Room controversy
On the 3rd of May 2020, social media was awash with repugnant details of an Instagram chat group comprising of boys that discussed ‘gang-raping’ girls in a group called ‘Bois Locker Room’ (Bois, being a spin on the word ‘boys’). The leaked photos of the “Bois Locker Room” (Boys Locker Room) Instagram group had kicked up a storm over the normalisation of rape culture in the country. The group allegedly ran by teenage boys, involved graphic conversation involving the sexualisation and sharing of private photos of girls, including that of underage girls, objectifying them and planning gang-rapes with minor girls.
The petrifying incident came to light after a girl from South Delhi shared multiple screenshots on social media and busted the said group.
“A group of south Delhi guys aged 17-18 types have this ig gc named ‘boy’s locker room’ where they objectify and morph pictures of girls their age. 2 boys from my school are a part of it. My friends and I are freaking out”, she said in a social media post while sharing the screenshots.
The girl also shared a list of participants of the groups and the chat on the group where the concerned individuals are seen sharing morphed and explicit photos of girls and making lewd remarks over them.
Following this incident, many such groups from all over the country came to light. A Google Drive folder made by a bunch of boys linked to Kolkata MUN circuit was exposed. This drive was allegedly maintained since 2016, where lewd pictures of girls were uploaded and shared. Similarly, a Girls’ locker room was also exposed, where a bunch of South Delhi girls were objectifying men and making unsavoury remarks against them.
The F.R.I.E.N.D.S syndrome
Television shows are not real per se but they do usually mirror society and its previous cultures. The current generation often forgets this and start thinking of it to be the other way round. In today’s times, television shows have created a problematic concept amongst the current generation of how life is supposed to be. However much a person tries to deny it, it becomes a vicious cycle.
Various psychological studies have proven that the kind of content one watches has a direct effect on the way a person starts thinking. This might not happen consciously, but it definitely has an effect on a person’s subconscious mind. A study conducted in April 2015 by the Psychology department of Georgia Southern University states that many people form one-way parasocial relationships with media characters that mirror aspects of actual social relationships. What this means is that people try to replicate the kind of relationships shown on television in their actual lives.
British psychologist Simon B. Cohen suggested in one of his research papers in 2004 that these parasocial relationships are more likely extensions of, rather than replacements for, real social relationships. Another study examined the television viewing habits of Friends viewers, including their attitudes toward the show, its characters, participants’ loneliness, intensity of the parasocial relationship with a favoured character from the show, and degree of distress following the airing of the last episode of Friends (Eyal & Cohen, 2006). Results showed that though loneliness did not predict the strength of one’s parasocial relationship, it was significantly positively related to parasocial breakup distress, in that those higher in loneliness also experienced greater distress following the ending of the show. These findings suggest that various aspects of one’s psychology, like attachment and loneliness, may be related to the parasocial relational aspects of television viewing.
Television shows like Friends portray characters like Ross and Chandler who are career-oriented, intelligent, sensitive and who make good money as the ‘losers’ of the show. They are shown as the characters who never get women and they are constantly looked down upon by their friends for being smart and witty.
The character of Monica who is a professional and who likes to clean is often termed as the ‘freak.’ In the show, Monica is introduced as an overweight character. Due to the fact that she is overweight, she is not liked by anyone and has severely low self-confidence. She keeps looking for acceptance amongst her brother, Ross’s friends. The friendship between Monica and Rachel begins because of Monica’s desire of being liked. She thinks Rachel is the ‘cool’ one and thus wants to be her friend.
Joey, Phoebe and Rachel are indecisive without proper careers and they think it is okay for them to be promiscuous. These two characters are considered to be the ‘cool’ ones and when asked, people often refer to either of them as their favourite characters of the show.
While many people of the current generation relate to these issues being highlighted in the program, they fail to look at the various other problems of this show. It shows how a person can only be liked when they are thin and that not having proper careers is ‘cool.’ This concept can be largely termed as the ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Syndrome.’
So what’s up with our generation? Here is what our peers said
We firmly believe that no one can understand a generation better than the generation itself. Keeping this in mind, we took interviews of many of our peers in our age group, boys and girls, alike.
Having analysed their interviews, the first and most obvious consensus among the interviewees was that what went down with this scandal is in no way acceptable or justifiable. Everyone agrees that it was the boys’ fault for sharing “lewd” pictures of their batchmates with others on a social media platform. Yashvi Agarwal believes that nowadays boys and girls “don’t differentiate between sharing an opinion and defaming someone”. In other words, she thinks that the students went wrong when they decided to start insulting their batchmates based on their bodies. Others think that “discussing rape” was the point where the boys crossed the line. We feel this is an opinion that everyone can agree with. Hence, it is well understood among people in our generation that objectifying, targeting, and considering something as “inhumane” as rape is unacceptable. However, there is a catch to all of this.
Even though our generation understands that some things are unacceptable, such as having targeted conversations about rape, people seem to be okay with the fact that there are underage boys and girls out there who are sharing obscene pictures of themselves online. People seem to be okay with a culture where “socialising” with people with the help of one’s body is rampant. People of our generation seem to be okay with over-sexualising personal relationships, and we believe that’s partly where the problem stems from.
An interviewee believes that this scandal was a case of “invasion of privacy” by those who shared others’ naked pictures online since those pictures were given to them based on “trust” that those pictures won’t be shared anywhere. Here lies the problem, where people aren’t realising the fact that over-sexualisation is, in fact, the problem, not just “privacy”. On being asked if it is acceptable on the part of the (in many cases, underage) boys and girls to exchange nude pictures online, an interviewee says that “it’s completely fine. That is what social media is about.” They think that “Something that might be obscene for you, might be completely fine for me”, and that it’s “completely” the person’s “choice”.
But this is not what plays out, speaking practically. In every generation, old or new, every single youngster wishes to be accepted among their peers. At a certain age, everyone wants to be considered ‘cool’ and included. What do people fall prey to, as a result? Peer pressure. In our generation, being sexually active from a very young age has become the ‘cool quotient’, so to speak, and hence, people feel the need to engage in such inappropriate behaviour at a young age. As a result, the argument that ‘it’s the person’s choice becomes irrelevant.
Another point which most interviewees made was that while both genders have a problem of objectifying people based on their bodies, people tend to highlight that trait in males much more than in females. As we know, following the bois locker room chats, there were alleged screenshots of similar groups made by girls as well. As pointed out by an interviewee, the girls’ group didn’t get nearly “as much media coverage” as the boys’, which it should have. Harsh Sangai also feels that the girls’ locker room “should be talked about more” and what’s happening is unfair. This gets us back to the faulty perception of feminism that our generation has. Feminism has become more about gender bashing than gender equality. In other words, modern feminism has morphed into ‘female patriarchy’.
On approaching an interviewee, who wishes to stay anonymous, we were told that she does not wish to give an interview. “Sorry, I don’t want to get involved cause it’s ‘people my friends are friends with’ and it’s just too much drama,” she said. She further went on to say, “But I believe that they need to be punished for shit they said about rape and stuff.” This proves how today’s generation is so scared by the thought of being social outcasts and to not be a part of any ‘drama’, even if they know speaking up us the correct thing to do.
One thing we established from these interviews is that people in our generation do not believe in social media regulations (on the part of the parents or school) as a viable solution to this problem. Yashvi Agarwal believes that “beyond a certain age” kids won’t listen to what their parents have to say if the parents are too intrusive. She thinks that such children will “hide” and do what they want no matter how much their parents try to control them. Another interviewee thinks that “monitoring anybody’s social media would not help at all because people will find a way to do it [things similar to what happened in Delhi] either way”. Then what can be done differently to prevent such behaviour?
We feel that children must be given adequate parental attention when they’re young so that they can at least differentiate between what’s right and what’s wrong. This also helps in embedding a strong value system among children, something that has been seriously misplaced in our generation thanks largely to western influence. An interviewee believes that “they [children] should be educated in their schools and their homes and that they should have proper mutual respect for one another”, they go on to say that “people should have a sense of positivity for others and their images.” Harsh Sangai says, “Sending a child to a good school doesn’t make him or her a good person. It is the moral education of a child that’s most important”, and that’s something that can only start from our homes.
Parents know their children better than children themselves: Here is what they think
Parents know their children better than children themselves. Keeping this thought in mind, we decided to interview Payal, mother of an 18-year-old boy.
Firstly we asked her about the generational gap as far as being sexually active/aware is concerned. She had some interesting things to say about that. She builds on the general argument that all teenagers feel the need to be accepted in their peer group, and draws a direct comparison of who the ‘social outcasts’ were in both our respective generations. She says in her generation, “children who were intelligent and academically focused were considered to be cool, and the laidback and carefree ones were the outcasts.” In our generation, on the other hand, it’s the complete opposite. Children who mingle with the opposite sex, sexually or otherwise, are always the popular ones, while the ones who are academically inclined are mostly secluded. This is the type of mindset in our generation that promotes sexually provocative behavioural traits and catalyse such incidents of harassment.
When asked whether over-exposure to western culture is causing problems in our generation, she says the fact that we are living in a “digital age” makes it very easy for our youth to “pick up the wrong things”. But, she believes that that’s not from where the real problem arises. She thinks that in an age where social media, television, and international travel are so convenient, it is practically impossible to prevent children from getting influenced by western culture. “Banning and barring” children from social media would be unethical and too intrusive, thinks Payal. She believes that in such a situation, parents have to be best friends first. There must exist a “friendly” relationship between parent and child, so that children aren’t afraid of sharing things with their parents. If this sort of a relationship exists, parents will automatically know where their child is going wrong, and it’ll be much easier to correct them, even at a later stage.
Another toxic trait that she pointed out in modern parents is their habit of substituting personal attention for “materialistic pleasures”. She feels that since rich parents usually devote less time to their children, they feel like spending money to compensate. This creates a “nothing can happen to me” attitude among teenagers, and they go on to become rapists and criminals.
What are these children thinking? Psychologist speaks
When analysing a problem like the one at hand, it becomes paramount to get to the grass-root level of the situation to understand the reason for such behaviour being exhibited by the members of the current generation.
The main problem with the current generation lays in the normalisation of over-sexualisation of matters. We believed that to get a better understanding of the matter, it was essential to take into consideration, the perspective of a professional.
On conversing with Mrs Puja Guha Thakurta, a psychologist by qualification who works as a school counsellor and a psychology teacher for high school students, we got an insight into the underlying issues which give rise to such behaviour.
Family is the first agency of socialisation for any child and it becomes their responsibility to instil a good value system in their children. Hence, it becomes important for parents to bring their children up well. Mrs Guha Thakurta said, “A child learns a lot of things from a very young age through observation.” This makes the environment that the child is growing up in, very important. The society is such that it expects the male child to suppress their emotions and to not be too expressive. If they do so, they are considered to be feminine. This subconsciously puts a lot of pressure on the child from a very young age. The ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ mentality gives rise to a male developing toxic masculinity. Professor Terry Kupers describes toxic masculinity as “the need to aggressively compete and dominate others” and as “the constellation of socially regressive male traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia and wanton violence”.
In addition to parents taking responsibility, educational institutions should also focus on instilling a good value system amongst children.
We also spoke to Mrs Guha Thakurta about how some cases of girls indulging in the same sort of behaviour of sexually discussing boys came out. We asked her what she thinks is the reason for girls to be indulging in such behaviour. According to her, this generation possesses an ‘I Don’t Care’ attitude. As a result, it might be so that the girls on feeling sexually violated feel that if the boys can do it, so can they. With the rise of the Feminist movement in the world, according to Mrs Guha Thakurta, the current generation mistakes it for ‘Male Bashing’. She said, “We are not looking at males and females being equals anymore and it has only become about gender bashing.” She further went on to say that in her opinion, “there is no difference between a male with misogynistic views and a woman who is a feminist in her view”.
On talking about how the people exhibiting such behaviour can be guided, Mrs Guha Thakurta said that it needs to start happening at a very young age because by the time one is 16 – 17, they already have a deep-rooted value system instilled in them which becomes very difficult to change. She proposed that schools can adopt programs for primary students to sensitize the boys on how to behave with the girls. She said that children at a young age should be taught how to have a mutual sense of respect for both the genders. She further went on to say that children of both the genders should be made aware of each other’s needs from a young age as it leads to a more sensitised and holistic development of the children.
When spoken to about the ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Syndrome’, Mrs Guha Thakurta said that the kind of content an individual watches has a lot of influence on the way they think. She said that now that the current generation is so exposed to such Sitcoms and television show, they are unable to internalize and rationalize what they are watching. As a result, this affects the way they start looking at things. She said that such shows set the parameters to “be cool” for the teenagers and they do so without realising the implications of it. She further gave an example and spoke about a show called ’13 Reasons Why’ which became very popular amongst the current generation recently. The way the show glorified engaging in sexual activity and it made you look ‘cool’ harms the teenagers subconsciously. It made the people who do not give much importance to it to be made felt like outcasts. Mrs Guha Thakurta said that it is very important to have a conversation regarding ‘sex’ with teenagers, however, it is very important for it to happen in the right direction or it may mislead the youth. She said that these sitcoms have made us the “generation of flings”. The generation has lost the ability to have meaningful relationships and they do not realise how much psychological damage a relationship might cause them.
Mrs Guha Thakurta also touched upon a very important topic – peer pressure. Peer pressure arises from a psychological concept called ‘conformity.’ Conformity, in Psychology, can be defined as a type of social influence involving a change in belief or behaviour in order to fit in with a group. She said that what most teenagers think is that it is vital for them to “fit in with their peers,” and in order to do so they tend to indulge in certain behaviour even if they think of it to be “morally wrong.” She said that this could be the case for some of the members of the ‘Bois Locker Room’ group chat.
After this conversation with Mrs Puja Guha Thakurta, it can be concluded that the problems are more deep-rooted than they seem and that the solution to it is the sensitisation of children at a young age and ensuring that they are brought up in a safe and an informed environment. It is the primary responsibility of parents to instil good values in their children, but some measures should also be taken by schools.
Finally, what we think
As an 18-year-old young adult, I have gone about most of my teenage life trying to ‘protect myself’ as much as possible as soon as I have stepped foot out of the house. It has never stopped men or women, as a matter of fact, to turn around and look at me in auto-rickshaws or in metro stations. I know most girls reading this relate to what I’ve said. However, I feel that instead of only blaming the men all the time, we girls have to start taking a little bit of responsibility for ourselves.
To the readers who think that they can get away with everything that they’re doing on the accountability of their parents, stop being cowards and start taking responsibility for your own actions. Learn from your mistakes and be your own saviour.
As an 18 year old man, I’d like to make a few pleas.
Firstly, I’d like to make a plea to all the current and future parents. Please spend more time with your children. Tell them what’s right and what’s wrong. Teach your boys how to respect women, but most importantly, teach them how to respect themselves first. Have your own life, but take the responsibility of instilling the right values in your children, and if you do things the right way, aage jaake aapka beta aapka naam roshan karega. Don’t teach them violence; make them learn from your mistakes.
To my peers, please listen to what your elders have to say, they’re not always wrong, you know. Be progressive, but know when your ever-changing values are starting to harm those around you. Be fearless, not a coward. Be a lion, not a snake. Set the right example for the next generation, for as Shikamaru said, “The Hokage isn’t the king, it’s the unborn child who will grow up to take care of the leaf.”
Finally, to all those reading, love others, “for in face aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as grass.”
(This article has been co-authored by Neitya Mohta and Yuvraj Agarwal)