CLEVELAND - An alarming trend is surfacing online targeting teenage fans of Justin Bieber.
The hashtag #CutForBieber gained traction on Twitter on Monday, calling for fans to take photos of them "cutting" themselves and post them online, as a campaign to get the pop singer to never smoke marijuana again. Countless photos were then posted to Twitter.
But this online campaign is a hoax.
Young men's lifestyle magazine Complex reported online that the origin of this cutting-photo campaign came from the blog 4Chan. Complex reports that 4Chan is pulling an elaborate and cruel prank on Bieber fans, based on the blog's track record. Last year, 4Chan mounted a campaign to convince Bieber fans that the singer had cancer and that fans should shave their heads in solidarity.
The start of the current campaign may be fake, but its effects are real. Teenagers are posting photos online showing what are presumably staged wounds. The message: teens should injure themselves to show how Bieber's marijuana usage is hurting them, so he should quit. Most pictures online show teen arms with staged wounds, some holding razor blades, some using red marker, fake blood or ketchup to "carve" a message in their arms.
It is not known how many photos are staged, how many are real, or how many are posted by 4Chan in an effort to fuel the prank.
The concern is growing that this fake Internet campaign will actually drive some impressionable teenage fans to harm themselves.
Fellow pop singer Miley Cyrus called on fans to stop this trend, retweeting:
"# cutforbieber? Cutting is NOT something to joke about. There are people who are actually suffering from self-harm, this is so disrespectful."
On New Year's weekend, pictures surfaced online reportedly showing Bieber smoking a marijuana cigarette.
In the days following the initial fan backlash, on Jan. 5, Bieber tweeted, "everyday growing and learning. trying to be better. u get knocked down, u get up." He then tweeted, "i see all of u. i hear all of u. i never want to let any of you down. i love u. and..thank u. # beliebers.
The fake cutting campaign began after those tweets.
"Cutting" is the term that the mental health community uses for the mental illness. Some medical professionals say teenagers "cut" themselves to get attention, while others may turn to self-destructive tendencies as an unhealthy means of coping.
Teens who discover these photos should refer them to an authority figure, and concerned parents should talk to their children.
Bieber nor his camp have offered any public statement about the fake cutting campaign.