There's a new Vine trend that has all corners of the Internet very upset: It's called #SmackCam and on a very surface level it looks just as "horrifying" as everyone says. The meme goes like this: One person hits another unsuspecting person and films it on Vine, the six second looping image app owned by Twitter. It's "human terribleness, on an infinite loop," to use the apt words of my Atlantic colleague Megan Garber. But upon further investigation, there are various levels to its terribleness and at times maybe isn't as terrible as it seems. Let's investigate:
Smack Cam Is Sexist. Sometimes! Some of the most popular Vines around star "douchey boys" hitting unsuspecting girls and making them cry, like this one and this one which is particularly jarring because the girl keels over in pain from the jug that her attacker just swiped across her skull.
Yes, those cams in the context of gender relations present a disturbing power structure. Even the ones that are jokes — like that one with jug above it turns out — make fun of an unfunny thing, say people like Jezebel's Katie J.M. Baker. "Violence against women is hilarious!!" she writes sarcastically. But, not all Smack Cams have this dynamic. The first one ever, also a joke, involved two men. The origin of the Smack Cam, at least, had nothing to do with violence against women. Sometimes they just involve women, too. But that brings us to the next level of terribleness.
Smack Cam Is Bullying. Sometimes! Gender aside, these cams are violent and at least look incredibly cruel. Just look at this heartbreaking one:
The Blaze's Meredith Jessup is so offended she calls the whole thing "animal." She adds: "I can’t even imagine ever doing something so brazenly violent and disrespectful." In a rare moment of agreement Baker says these fall under the definition of bullying. But, a lot of them are fake and jokes, according to the creators. It's hard to tell with the rest of them — but maybe the entire point of the meme is to fake it?