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Don't believe what you see on social media

The logo for Twitter is displayed above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in February 2018. (Richard Drew / AP file)
May 6 2019

By Esther Cepeda (Washington Post)

CHICAGO -- It's a story as old as time itself: If you want to protect yourself from predators, get big and scary. Even the great horned owl fluffs up its feathers, and the puffer fish swells its spiny skin to ward off attackers.

So, too, it goes in the social media age -- a time in which we condemn peers for attempting to portray their lives as more glamorous and exciting than our own for the sake of retweets or likes. But some people are now using their virtual identities to create barriers to violence.

Many who grow up in unsafe neighborhoods -- where gangs set shifting boundaries that, when crossed, could have mortal consequences -- have found that social media can provide an effective security system against being victimized. All it takes is some props and bluster.

On Chicago's South Side, for instance, gang-associated young people often use what Stanford sociologist Forrest Stuart called "fabricated displays of bravado" to mitigate conflicts by presenting themselves as scarier and more violent than they are in real life.

Read more at the Chicago Tribune.