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Lia Marie Johnson isn’t joking when she tells TeenVogue that “one thing you should take away from this show is that not everything online is safe”. She plays Hailey Jensen in psychological thriller series You’ve Been T@gged (2017-current; Seasons 1 and 2 are on Showmax) and she’s the perfect fit. Before being cast, the 21-year-old’s claim to fame was her YouTube channel and she knows all about cyber bullying, the show’s main theme. Lia adds: “You have to be careful what you choose to do on the internet. Our show is fictionalised but it happens and we give viewers an idea of what teens face as they navigate the mobile world.”
No rest for the wicked
The problem with social media is that it’s 24/7. People are online all the time thanks to smartphones, access to digital data through Wi-Fi hotspots and how technology has made it easier to not only record or take photos of events but also edit and digitally manipulate the content. Even information that you think is secure isn’t safe – social media platform Facebook lost billions thanks to the scandal about selling your info to people you may not want to have it. And then they sell it, the next person sells it and so on. Before you know it, your info is available to the wrong people at the click of a button. And that accessibility is an issue – it’s almost guaranteed to lead to some form of cyber-bullying, whether you realise it or not.
And no one is actually safe – even glitzy glam celebs are trolled daily online by cyber bullies. Kelly Marie Tran was forced off social media because Star Wars “fans” hated her character Rose Tico in The Last Jedi so much that they attacked her online. While Lia hasn’t been in Kelly Marie’s shoes, she and her T@gged co-stars are all too well aware of the dangers, which aren’t the intended outcome when you open a social media account: “It (being on social media) is a lot of pressure sometimes because everyone has a different opinion. I’m learning to not let it get to me though. I just want to live my life,” says Lia.
Girls on the go
T@gged doesn’t give you time to settle in – it’s balls-to-the-wall social media drama from episode 1. That’s when the three main characters are brought together by a mysterious online user named MonkeyMan, tagging [Tagging is a social media functionality that allows users to create a link back to the profile of the person] them in a murder video on social media. Hailey and her bestie Rowan (Lulu Antariksa) go in search of Elisia (Katelyn Nacon), who’s listed in the video with her. Their biggest issue – besides the fact that they have nothing to do with the video that’s going viral – is that they don’t know if it’s real or a fake.
“I don’t pay attention to hate – so this dark side is something new to me,” explains Katelyn. “This show is bringing up topics that we as youngsters may talk to adults about but we don’t directly address it and that is a huge issue. This show will maybe highlight the dangers of social media to parents and make them realise just what is out there.” Lulu adds that “this isn’t even a modern thing. I went to public school and I remember the hurtful things people were posting on MySpace – that was ages ago. I can only imagine what it’s become like now for teenagers especially, because of the immediacy of everything. It’s very much brushed under the rug that teenagers have issues and genuine feelings and that makes this show and topic something that everyone – kids and their parents – should watch because it will resonate.”
So how do you get away from the social media storm and dangers lurking behind someone else’s mouse click?
“It’s difficult,” says Lia, “because social media is power. Everyone is worried about how many followers you have, how many likes and retweets you get – that is the problem.” But it can also be the solution – when actress Demi Lovato overdosed, Kelly Osbourne used her social media to set the record straight about something the MailOnline had misquoted that could’ve led to Kelly getting online hate.
At least with physical bullies, you can see the threat coming. It’s worse online when the attacks can come from anywhere in the world – and you have no clue what to expect.
Be safe, people – keep your guard up and your info safe!
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