We’ve seen this phenomenon many times: a kid sees a clip or a picture with something nasty/gross/stupid (or all of the above), feels grossed out, but immediately shares with all friends. What is that impulse that makes us share things that are downright disgusting? If you didn’t like it, why would you show it to anyone else?
IT’S GONNA BLOW!
To visualise this situation imagine that you saw a shocking video. You can’t stop thinking about it and your head feels as if it’s going to explode from all those strong emotions. So you share: you show it to friends and family, and this pressure inside your head lessens – it’s as if along with the video, you shared some of the feelings it invoked in you.
Daniel Kelly from Purdue University explains it this way: “It’s the same kind of thrill people get from, say, riding a roller coaster or bungee jumping — it activates the experience that typically comes with a real kind of danger while actually being protected from the harmful effects typically associated with those situations. One of the main functions of disgust, the heart of this particular emotion’s primary job or core mission, is to protect us from infectious diseases.”
Naturally, kids on social media aren’t protecting themselves or others from anything. But the impulse is the same. It also has a lot to do with simply experiencing something new and thrilling, and sharing that experience with others. In her book Nina Strohminger wrote that “(…) negative sensations are interesting, particularly when you’re in a context where they can’t hurt you.” We read books about horrific events in the history with full knowledge that it can’t harm us – it’s just facts and information. Similarly, TV and especially the internet are a safe space to be able to see all sorts of dangerous and exciting things (like wild animals, bungee jumping or even outer space) from the comfort of your own chair.
TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE?
The big question therefore seems to be: should the disgusting, scary, sad or simply gross images and videos even be so readily available online? Should there be a space for them outside the news? The answer is, as usual, incredibly complicated: just because we don’t see something happening, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. We have to be careful about what we show our kids, but we also have to remember that it’s part of our experience – it’s also how we learn.
WHAT ABOUT MOMIO
It doesn’t mean, of course, that everything is allowed on Momio – we have created and implemented simple and easy to understand rules of what is okay to post on our social media for kids. We explained why some pictures or videos shouldn’t be on Momio and why we have to delete some of the post kids might find normal. Sharing and learning are very important, but everything has it’s time and place.