Gossip Girls: New app targets men on Facebook - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Gossip Girls: New app targets men on Facebook

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - New social media enables bullying and cattyness to follow people deep into adult life, and one of the newest crazes targets men on Facebook.

Without knowing it, men have an automatically generated profile on an app where women rate men on everything from appearance to dating habits. Reviewers call it sexist and invasive, and women are the culprits.

"This is a pretty crazy app," said Loyola senior Marlin Williford.

LuLu is an app that generates a profile for all of your male friends on Facebook, and lets you anonymously rate them on everything from appearance and humor to dating concerns that are much more intimate.

Any woman with the same Facebook friend can see the review, while the app prevents men from even logging in.

"It just kind of makes you wonder, like, who's out there looking and what are they saying about you," Williford said.

The app promotes itself as empowering women to make better dating decisions.

"While I'm scrolling, I'm like, oh do I know any of these people?" said Loyola senior Aaren Gordon.

The often crude nature of the anonymous reviews suggests a new form of cyber bullying, and it has lead to lawsuits and petitions to shut the app down.

"It needs to stop, like, today," Williford said. "If it can, if possible - today.

"Women prefer it because it's more covert," said University of New Orleans psychology professor Monica Marsee.

Research suggests that girls more often bully to improve their social status. But Marsee said it's not just child's play.

"If you're an aggressive child - a boy who hits other boys - that tends to peak around a certain age and then decline," Marsee said. "This type of aggression, while it does have peaks in middle school, we see it in adult samples all the time."

Only those 17 and older can access LuLu because of its "intense, mature, and suggestive themes." But there are many more avenues for bullies to attack their victims online.

"That anonymous poster is becoming more a figure in everybody's lives," said Loyola senior Lauren Patton.

Loyno Confessions is a Facebook page set up by an unknown person. It allows people to post comments about Loyola University and its students anonymously.

"There have been 4,533 posts as of Jan. 30," Patton said.

It's one of many unforgiving community-specific gossip pages.

"It can go as far as calling people out for having an STD," Patton said.

"You see something like that, and this is such a small community that you know who these people are half the time - you recognize their names," said Loyola editorial writer Jessica DeBold.

DeBold wrote an editorial in the school's paper begging people to stop the online abuse, because social workers say it's the type of trauma that can ruin a reputation and stick with someone for the rest of their lives.

"In my clinical practice I see a lot of these situations where people are deeply affected by what's been said about them and devastating consequences about depression," said Parker Sternbergh, assistant director of the Porter Caseon Institute for the Family at Tulane University. "We've seen, of course, the suicides and the drug use and the addiction, and all of those things as a result of these really awful things being said."

Now a senior at Loyola, DeBold recalls a traumatic post about her from nearly a decade ago.

"A friend of mine approached me and said, ‘you know they've been talking about you on Myspace' and bashing people on Myspace - talking about who were some of the most unattractive people in the grade, and I was brought up at the time," DeBold said.

With years of maturity and perspective between that post and now, DeBold still gets upset when talking about it.

"They posted these things not realizing how much it could really hurt an insecure 13-year-old," she said."

That type of long-lasting anxiety is why local schools are attacking the problem of cyber bullying as soon as the behavior emerges - and that's earlier than you might expect.

"I have actually seen it in fifth and sixth grade - as low as that area," said Wylene Sorapuru with the Algiers Charter Association.

Sorapuru said nearly every student has a cell phone beginning in first grade. With that comes the ability to mass-produce hurtful messages.

"I have worked with a student that received messages that were very inappropriate," Sorapuru said. "They shared something out, it was used to harass them after the fact, and it pretty much went viral around the entire school from Facebook.

For the poster, it can mean suspension, expulsion or even a lawsuit if they're of age. But for the victim, it can often mean much more.

"I've really had some horrible consequences that have happened from this," Sorapuru said. "All the way to needing counseling, needing support. I know that it can go to a point of not being able to handle life anymore when they get to be fully harassed by someone and it's ongoing."

Sorapuru says there is hope. As students learn the consequences of mean posts, and parents learn how dangerous and easy it can be for kids to use social media sites, the amount cyber bullying seems to be leveling off.

Social media professor David Zemmels said website administrators and apps are learning their lesson, too. He said many sites now respond quickly to complaints.

"No site, I think, can make a living with that kind of negative stuff going on, because nobody is going to go there for a positive reason, and so nothing positive can ever come out of it," Zemmels said. "So I think in all of those sites, I think their mission is to try to stamp that stuff out."

But as one site shuts down, another pops up. LuLu is just a year old, and according to its website - it has been downloaded more than one million times.

In response to a recent lawsuit involving Lulu, the app added an "opt-out" button at the bottom of its website on the "about me" page.

Cyber bullying is a federal offense and can carry a $500 fine for posters.

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