How Teens Use Apple’s Ad-Hoc File Sharing System AirDrop to Spread Memes, Cheat at School

Need some new memes? Turn on AirDrop and wait.

According to a new report from The Atlantic, teens use Apple’s ad-hoc file sharing tool to send each other memes and other content, and adults are getting caught in the crossfire:

Anyone who has accidentally left their AirDrop settings open to everyone around a group of teens is likely familiar with the deluge of memes, selfies, and notes that arrives so quickly it can often freeze your phone. ‘Another day another group of french teens trying to AirDrop me memes on the subway,’ one woman tweeted. ‘In a crowd of teens and they keep trying to AirDrop me memes!!!’ said another. One young Twitter user joked that she was going to a music festival last weekend ‘just to AirDrop.’

Teens don’t necessarily even know each other; the “phenomenon” tends to happen when there are large amounts of people in one place, like a concert, train station, or classroom:

It works like this: Once there’s a critical mass of people around, usually enough so that it’s not immediately clear who an AirDrop came from, teens start dropping photos, memes, selfies, and more to every open phone around. Teenagers will usually change the names of their iPhones to something anonymous or funny to compound the joke. ‘I used to have the name Momo Challenge for my phone,’ said Ryan, a 17-year-old in California who, like all teenagers interviewed for this story, is referred to by a pseudonym. ‘Sometimes I’ll do my country name from Model UN, or something related to the situation I’m in. I used to have it named Donald Trump, then I’d send crazy liberal memes.’

The trend isn’t necessarily for sharing funny memes, or pictures, as it’s become a real problem in places of learning. Cheating through AirDrop has become an issue with many schools in the United States:

Some schools have also had problems with students cheating via AirDrop. Sam Bendinelli, a public high-school teacher in New Jersey, said that students sometimes send copies of tests, homework, or answers to quizzes via AirDrop during class or free periods. He and other teachers have begun to crack down on students having their phones out in order to thwart this sort of sharing. ‘If I see a phone out now, it doesn’t matter what excuse you give me. I’m voiding that test because [cheating] is too easy,’ Bendinelli said.

And while it may be an issue at schools, and an innocent way of sharing funny content between teens, adults caught in the crossfire are many times confused and upset by the AirDrop trend:

Adults who stumble into an AirDrop ring usually feel like they’ve entered the wrong room. It can feel awkward, and grown-ups often aren’t sure if they’re being trolled. Zhong, who is 22 years old, said she’s seen some friends AirDrop people repeatedly in an attempt to crash their phones. The humor comes from watching the poor soul’s reaction as their phone stops working, or their confusion at being bombarded with an endless stream of obscure references.

So next time you’re around a group of teens and need a new meme stash, turn on AirDrop. If that’s not what you’re in need of in this world, you know, don’t.

Check out The Atlantic‘s entire report on the AirDrop trend here.

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