Social media users go to wild ends for ‘likes’

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Social media users go to wild ends for ‘likes’

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A man in his 20s, surnamed Hwang, is holding up a dachshund by its neck. The video he uploaded of himself on Facebook went viral on Sunday. [FACEBOOK SCREEN CAPTURE]

A Facebook post of a man abusing his dog went viral on Sunday. The man, stripped to his waist, swore at a dachshund, strangled it and shook it violently by the neck while throwing punches to its head. As the man lifted the dog by its ear, the animal cried in pain.

An animal protection group reported the man, a 28-year-old surnamed Hwang, to police on Monday for violating the Animal Protection Law. Hwang uploaded a video of himself apologizing to the public, saying, “I got angry when the dog’s teeth sort of grazed my arm. I was also drunk and not in control of my emotions.”

But Hwang is not alone is posting provocative videos online to gain more attention on social media networks.

In February, a man posted a message on his Facebook page claiming, “I will eat a live mouse if I get 100,000 ‘likes.’” When he got the “likes,” the man followed up on his promise and posted a video of himself eating a live mouse.

This trend often crosses the line of what’s legal. One man in his 20s, surnamed Kim, posted a video on Facebook on March 4 of his efforts to breed Siamese crocodiles, a critically endangered species. He was later caught by police, as it is illegal in Korea to trade and breed endangered species.

Another man distributed online hidden-camera footage last year of women showering in a water park. Suwon District Court sentenced him to two years in prison.

“Some netizens distribute stimulating videos without discretion in order to gain attention on social media,” said Choi Hang-sub, professor of social sciences at Kookmin University. “They associate social media attention with power.”

Netizens willing to commit crimes to receive “likes” are now being referred to as “reply gangsters,” a name derived from their forceful demand for attention.

“People who cross the line to gain attention online often lack proper relationships in the offline world,” reflected Lee Na-mi, a licensed psychologist. “These people are asking for approval, and they’re willing to get it at the risk of appearing perverted.”

There are also economic reasons for posting bizarre or provocative videos.

“If you get an increasing number of ‘likes,’ you can rake in more than 10 million won [$8,732] per month in the advertisement sector,” said 23-year-old Shin Tae-il (pseudonym) in an interview on Seoul Broadcasting System’s television program Morning Wide. Shin posted a video of himself lighting his nipples on fire in February and gained some 309,000 likes.

Shin has over 1 million followers in Facebook.

“Many users who post such provocative contents online remain unaware of the social problems they’re creating,” said Lee Yoon-ho, dean of Dongguk University’s graduate school of police administration. “As online technology expands, schools should start providing education on social media ethics.”


BY HONG SANG-JI, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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