19-year-old Myzell Armstrong of Smyrna, Georgia has
been sentenced to four years in prison and 20 years probation following an
altercation with other teens over insults traded over social media. Armstrong
and two of her friends confronted three other girls who arrived in a car to settle
the dispute. Armstrong’s friends tossed hot oil into the car, permanently
scarring one of the girls.
What happened here? Old school teenage squabbles used to
happen on the playground as a result of passed notes in class and
misinformation. Now personal disputes are being made public in this digital
age, leaving young girls feeling pressured to prove themselves to their friends
in ways that are more drastic than a hallway stare down. Has social media proven to be the stage
our teenagers will use to showcase their dramatic breakdowns?
These kids are filming themselves destroying property,
pulling outrageous pranks and assaulting each other all for the sake of views
and likes. It was pretty bad when your entire town knew that Suzy beat you up, but it is devastating when the world watches you crumble under a sonic punch.
How loudly does a snarky Instagram mention reverberate through the universe?
Let’s not overlook the fact that Armstrong was with two
other friends when the attack happened. Her role was merely to open the door
and allow another friend to throw the hot oil inside the car, yet the two other
girls involved in the assault along with Armstrong were not charged. Armstrong
received the full brunt of the punishment for this gruesome crime, and the young
lady who has been permanently disfigured will always remember it as well.
The fact that teens feel the world is judging their
every tweet makes it difficult to back down when a public insult is made. Going so far as to burn someone with hot oil is exactly the kind of retribution
that viral stardom is made of. How far will teens go for a thousand retweets? How
loudly does a snarky Instagram mention reverberate through the universe?
My heart aches for the damage that youngsters like Armstrong
will have to recover from because of their inability to tone down the
importance of words shared through social media. Sticks and stones may break
your bones but when it comes to social media—words can hurt you for life.