Society has massively out-poured support and money to Quaden Bayles, but is this the right approach to address crucial underlying needs?
In the latest parent-kid viral video craze, Yarraka Bayles posted a clip of her son, Quaden, who is bullied at school for his dwarfism.
In the video, now removed, you can see an emotionally upset Quaden and hear an angry Yarraka addressing the failure of anti-bullying messages at school and saying obscenities about the treatment her son experiences. Some of his feelings even include suicidal thoughts!
A young kid at 9 with suicidal feelings is a heart-wrenching matter.
Moreover, Yarraka and Quaden have been seen on television and even received nearly $500,000 in donations!
Indeed, this is a massive flood of support for this young man that desperately needs to be heard.
However, is this the right approach to send? Primarily, that when we face dire attacks to our dignity and self-worth, we should medicate ourselves with viral videos, money, and fancy trips?
The boy looks like he’s having the time of his life, but as a social work graduate and someone passionate about mental health, have Quaden’s problems really been addressed?
To me, it seems like he’s healing and basking in the cult of celebrity which is really nothing more than materialism.
Materialism, the belief that material possessions are the ultimate source of happiness, is widespread in our post-modern culture. The culture expresses materialism in its desire to find purpose and comfort in things they own or can accumulate.
This is one aspect of materialism, but the philosophical definition matters too.
To me, materialism also means that the material world, or matter, is the only source of truth or meaning.
Both the cultural expression and philosophical worldview go hand and hand.
When examining the aftermath of Quaden, the cultural response to his viral video is rooted in both.
Celebrities and the general public have reinforced the message that when we’re suffering through mental illnesses or face extreme traumatizing events, we can find solace in our material possessions. Be it money, trips, fame, or a social media post that can potentially go viral.
But this is one symptom of a culture that desperately wants to find meaning and purpose in things rather than the Creator.
For me, the video posted by Yarraka is indicative of our culture: parents and children want viral recognition!
On any given day on Twitter, you can go on your timeline and notice parents posting comical videos of what their kids have said or trying to bring awareness, similar to Quaden, about problems they’re experiencing.
Kids and teenagers are quick to rush for viral fame too. Just look at all the “challenge” videos all for a like or view!
Inspired by copycat behavior, many parents and adolescents want to feel accepted and noticed, so these viral videos are integral to our culture now.
However, according to Dr. Jeff Nalin, a licensed clinical psychologist, he believes that social media projects a false view of perfection among teens.
Moreover, researchers have discovered that those endorsing materialism will have unpleasant emotions and feel less satisfied with their lives.
Think about that. Through this social experiment with young Quaden, the culture may be doing more wrong than good. By addressing the serious nature of his bullying and suicidal thoughts with materialism and social media, the culture might be giving him exposure to a false reality that will lead to despair.
Materialism fails because the image of perfection by proclaiming your “best life” is found in things and associations are baseless. True happiness won’t come through possessions or a video upvote but through God himself.
As St. Augustine famously declared in Confessions, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
The cultural elites and public should genuinely want to see the good happen to young Quaden. The torment he experiences is real and deserves vital action.
To coddle him with fanciful alluring items and exposure without addressing the real situation, his mental state and how to flourish as an individual with dwarfism in a sometimes intolerant world, should be in our common interests.
Disneyland can’t cure a fractured self-concept of one’s self as true therapy and faith can.