Meet Dark Social: App Culture's Murky Side That Promotes Cyberbullying

Dark social's untraceable nature is creating a bullying problem that would need solving sooner rather than later.

Social Media

The impact of social media on the cyber generation's lifestyle has been largely positive, but there exists a little known dark side to it, which escapes our attention.

Called dark social, this term was first coined by journalist Alexis C. Madrigal to refer to the social sharing of content that occurs outside of what can be measured by Web analytics programs. Dark social, in other words, started off as being that part of a website's social traffic that can't be tracked.

But in years since, dark social's connotation has expanded. No more is it just a headache for Web masters struggling to figure out where the traffic on their site is coming from. Dark social has now transitioned into cyberbullying and is one of the leading causes of online bullying going unnoticed by parents and guardians until it's too late.

The unfortunate example of a girl named Rebecca Sedwick – from Lakeland, Florida – springs to mind here. Sedwick, 12, committed suicide in September 2013 after enduring a year-and-a-half of online as well as offline bullying by her peers. But the unsettling thing was that there were no real signs she was being bullied at all. Her mother suspected it and kept an eye on her online behavior but she couldn't get to any solid evidence to support her hunch. And then one day, she was found dead from an apparent suicide at an abandoned cement business.

Even after her death, dark social's anonymous nature shrouded the mystery as the two teenagers who were arrested in connection with Sedwick's murder had to be acquitted due to "zero evidence."

The reason is that while interactions on services such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are traceable, most mobile media apps so common among today's youth promote anonymity. The parents' unfamiliarity with the app culture further aggravates the situation. 

The need is for parents to not just play the supervisory role, but also become active participants in social and mobile media population so they are better equipped at dealing with whatever murky stuff that comes their children's way.

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