For those of you unfamiliar with the #sausagemovement or #sausagerap, I will give you a quick overview. Simply put a group of young people (between the ages of 14 and 16) get together, one starts a beat and begins a rap like this;
Err’body say “Sausage”
KEEP IT GOING
Eggs, bacon, grits, SAUSAGE!
The rap then continues with the group repeating the word ‘sausage’ after each member has stepped in saying something along the lines of “I’m a fat bitch but I still take SAUSAGE”, or if it’s boys doing the rap, “Tell that bitch come here, lick my SAUSAGE!”
Each member of the group has a turn to say a different line with a similar (dare I say) flavour while the group chants “sausage”. There is an official lyrics sheet but the groups adapt lyrics to suit themselves, all the while keeping them within the theme of course. In some of the raps there is even a clever kind of punch line by the last rapper for example, a girl who says, “I like girls, can I still take the sausage?”
Globally, teenagers from different backgrounds, are now performing these raps and uploading them onto social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook. You can easily find them by initiating a quick YouTube search of #sausagemovement or #sausagerap. I recommend you watch some for your education. Here is the link for the official website: http://www.sausagemovement.com/
I am very clued up about social media and keep in touch with what is trending more so than many other parents because it is part of my work. Being as aware as I am about social media, how it works and what the risks are, I spend a lot of time talking with teenagers about it. When I find posts that I deem to be inappropriate we dialogue about them. What I have learned from those conversations however, is this;
Teenagers find it difficult to really grasp the risks they expose themselves to when they go online.
Even when I elaborate by drawing out the possibilities to the most horrific outcome, it doesn’t seem to hit home. I talk about the risks of being tracked by human traffickers, pornography rings or even just creepy wierdos. I talk about the risks of posting things that employers or colleges may find offensive thus jeopardising your chances of securing a job, scholarship or place in college. I talk about how the posts never really go away even after they have been deleted; I talk about how once things go viral they cannot be contained. I talk about a time, later in life when they are no longer wild teens, but settled white-picket fence parents and a damning picture or video is brought up from the past with the power to shatter everything they have built. A reputation in the world of social media, I tell them, is built from the very first post you make and it is almost impossible to redirect that reputation if it goes off course.
Your online persona is your personal brand, forever.
I feel as though I am being clear when I speak, and sometimes I feel as though I am being heard. Yet, I notice that I keep repeating the conversation. Here is where the #sausagemovement comes in.
By most parents’ standards the #sausagemovement raps (which I hope you have watched by now) are vulgar, derogatory and shameful; both in the type of language the young people are using, and also in the content of what the teenagers are saying about themselves.
Speaking to a teenager about it however, you will be met with, “it’s nothing serious”, or “it’s just a vine”, “it’s supposed to be funny”.
FUNNY!? Are you kidding me? I really struggle to see the humour in a 14 or 15 year old talking about “taking the sausage” and referring to themselves as “bitches”.
So what is the real problem here? I can tell you, it’s NOT social media’s fault.
Social media is simply the broadcast medium for these things. It doesn’t cause them, it merely publicises them. The REAL problem is that young people feel as though it is ‘funny’ to participate in something like that. And it is OUR problem as parents, as teachers, as uncles and aunts, ministers, as responsible influencers in their lives.
When a young person cannot see how they are debasing themselves by performing that way, we have to acknowledge that we have failed them in some way.
There is a message we have incorrectly communicated or even completely failed to communicate.
The primary drive for a teenager is to gain acceptance. Historically the ability to make papers fly off the presses implied fame (or infamy). Nothing differs in the world of social media; to make a vine, a tweet or any other post go viral is an indicator of success, for a teenager an indicator of popularity. We all know that sex sells, so now do teenagers and in an effort to generate Likes or Shares or Reposts they will use whatever they can, even a phallic rap song that debases them. This, for a teenager, is an indication of popularity and acceptance by peers.
We parents and adults have unwittingly contributed to this phenomenon as media consumers.
Our children see us reading gossip magazines, newspaper headlines and scandals on all sorts of media. We even participate in it with them; watching reality TV shows with them, and following the lives of various actors or media personalities. We encourage them to follow the lives of bands like One Direction and even engage in conversations about the whys and wherefores of their career decisions as though they were friends of ours. Through our consumption of media, we have assisted the likes of the Kardashian family to perpetuate the value system that our teenagers now subscribe to. Moreover, we use social media ourselves to get likes, comments and affirmation.
We have fed the value system that says you have made it if you are popular in the media.
The problem is that media has always been a tool to tell a story, to paint a picture and to leave the media consumer with an opinion or a point of view. Using the media to create a persona was once the exclusive domain of those who could afford it and the stories were told by journalists who had a brief and guidelines about the slant or kind of picture to be painted. Even in the world of social media teams of people are hired to brief celebrities on how to use social media to tell the story they want to have told; nothing is tweeted or posted without forethought.
Since social media is freely accessible, our teenagers have become the inexperienced journalists and publicists of their own life stories.
They are telling stories about themselves that do not reflect who they really are in order to sell Likes because we have conspired with mass media to show them that Likes=Acceptance. They are too young to be able to anticipate and really grasp what the future could look like so they believe that with an instant delete the story can be changed and the future is protected. We know that is not so.
I feel a twinge of sadness as I write this because I once asked my teenager about her and her friends’ management of their Instagram accounts. She was straightforward, “it’s just to get more likes; we collect likes”. I didn’t get it until today. What I see now is that, at the time she was telling me exactly what she and all teenagers are using their behaviour on social media to do, and I missed it. Now that I see it, I will be taking a long look at myself and how I have modelled that value system for her. Will you do it too?
It is our duty to change the value system that says mass popularity at all costs means you have made it.
We can only do that by examining our own relationship with media and celebrities so that we can demonstrate a different value system. And we need to do this urgently, not just for our teens today but for all the children younger than them for whom we are also responsible. Trying to talk a teenager into a new value system is too late; raising a teenager starts at birth.
What is your media behaviour communicating to your children about the meaning of success and acceptance?