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The Death Dance Of Musical.ly

Anastasia Basil writes about kids and the social media platform Musical.ly. Excerpts:

My daughter is ten. She wants me to get Musical.ly on my phone so she can make funny lip-sync videos. Everyone has it, she whines, even the kid whose mom is an FBI agent/social worker/pediatrician/nun.

Wow. Well. In that case…

I download the app while she’s at school but it won’t let me explore without an account. I create a profile under Chardonaynay47 only to delete that and opt for something less momish, gummibear9.

One word sums up my experience: Nowayismykidgettingthisapp.

Musical.ly looks innocent — just kids making music videos, and it is that, but more so it’s this: user uploaded content by millions of people who can also live stream, which is how I first encountered porn on Musical.ly. A very helpful naked man live-streamed his live stream (if you know what I mean.)


Porn is not the worst thing on Musical.ly. The worst thing is watching little kids (as young as eight) sexually objectify themselves. The kids who get it right (the tweeny Kardashians) gain followers. The kids who get it wrong — those not “sexy” enough, funny enough, pop-culturey enough — are openly ridiculed in the comment section. Worse, their “cringe-worthy” lip sync may be immortalized in “Musical.ly Cringe Compilation” videos on YouTube. Some of these cringe compilations have upwards of five million views. My heart hurts not only for the exploited children, but for all kids who scroll Musical.ly (or YouTube) and see this kind of ugly play out.

It gets worse. There’s code language that gets past Musical.ly’s filters. Some kids hashtag their videos with words like thot, which stands for That Ho Over There, or fgirl, hottie, sxy, whooty or sin. But good luck keeping up, the code changes week-to-week. And there are lyrics — stop reading now if you’re easily put off — there are kids mouthing words about rough sex. I saw a boy around the age of 9, maybe 10, create a user name that was so sexually graphic I had a hard time processing what I was seeing. A little boy. Not a teenager. A boy.

And much worse. There are #killingstalking musical.lys, which are dark-themed (artistic?) videos showing boys putting knives to girls’ throats. There are #selfharm videos that show suicide options — bathtubs filling, images of blades, a child’s voice saying she doesn’t want to live any more. I saw a boy with a bleeding chest (yes, real blood.) I saw a young girl whose thighs were so cut up I had to take a break from writing this article. A long break. The images are deeply upsetting. There are #cutter and #triggerwarning and #anorexic videos. Musers with eating disorders hashtag videos using proana (code for pro anorexia.) I found over eleven thousand #selfhate videos. It goes on and on. Each hashtag is its own magical wardrobe, a portal into a world where it’s always winter but never Christmas. It’s Narnia minus Aslan.


Look at the Musical.ly screenshot above, and read the comment beneath it. Somewhere out there is this girl’s mom, she probably thinks her daughter is watching funny lip-syncs, not leaning into an abyss. In this case, anorexia beckons. Suicide beckoned Dylan. For others, it’s a living hell of self-hate. Zero notifications. Zero new followers. The absence of love — the kind so readily given to other kids via thousands of followers, likes and hearts— is hard evidence: The world thinks I’m a loser. These are the kids who hashtag their own face with the word ugly. The world, of course, is oblivious. But to kids with an online identity, the rejection feels global.

Read the whole thing. See the screenshot Basil is talking about. It’s a photo of an anorexic girl (not her face). Share this story with everybody you know.

This is the world we live in. This is the culture of death. This is a civilization that has a death wish.

We are not condemned to live like this. Come on, parents — parent! Refuse to let this evil into your homes, and into the lives of your children. It’s hard — but what is the alternative?

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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