Each of us at some point has experienced some form of bullying. Most of us experienced it during our school days, and then many worked hard to put it all behind them. Today’s bullying isn’t happening just on the school grounds though. You can’t just come home, play with your dog, and try to put it all behind you. The bullying continues on Facebook, Twitter, forums, chat rooms – and it lives forever. It isn’t about “Hey! Give me your lunch money!” It is much meaner and pervasive. And, it isn’t limited to school age children.
But, wait a second? Why is Shama talking about cyber bullying? Doesn’t she usually stick to marketing, technology, and business type issues? Yes. I usually do stick to guiding people around the digital world. I love technology. I love the world we live in today that affords us so much power, but as I’ve pointed out before, with such power comes responsibility. And, I feel as a society we are currently shirking this responsibility.
Cyber Bullying Affects Us ALL
The recent story of the 18 year old college student who committed suicide has really stuck with me. Why did he feel so compelled to take his own life? We now know it was because his roommate and another student used a webcam to shoot and post his intimate moments online. What they probably considered to be a silly prank dramatically changed so many lives.
Cyber bullying is not limited to college campuses and school yards either. Just a take a look at any website that offers the capacity to post reviews, and you will see some of the vitriol that masquerades under the guise of “being helpful.” Same bullying. Different form. Different channel.
I’ve recently experienced this on a personal level as well. I don’t wish to disclose too much because I feel it will only fuel the bully with more power. I can only say that none of us are immune to being hurt by the harsh words and thoughtless actions of others.
Cyber Bulling is NOT OKAY
There was a time when kids were told to “fight their own battles.” While this piece of advice works in some situations, we cannot expect all individuals to respond in the same manner. We all possess different mental and emotional thresholds. We must respect those thresholds without trying to guess them.
As a society, we need to be more attuned to what is going on around us, and not be afraid to take a stand.
There Is a Solution
I can’t help but wonder if the student mentioned above would have felt the need to take his own life, if someone had spotted the video and informed the college Dean. If someone had pulled down the content and held the other two students responsible.
I can’t help but feel that there are solutions out there. Great crimes are committed under the guide of “it’s a free country” and the free speech amendment. We live in a time of great power and awesome freedom. But, it must go hand in hand with responsible use.
We Are All Responsible
It is easy to shirk responsibility. As individuals it is easy to say- We didn’t think it was a big deal at the time or if I said something, the bully could have turned on me instead!
Not only do we have a personal responsibility to our fellow human beings, but online channels should shoulder the responsibility too. Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and LinkedIn for example should all uphold certain standards. It is a coward’s way out to say “we are just the medium.” Is it a difficult task to maintain the balance between free speech and preventing online bullying? Of course. But, that doesn’t mean we should ignore the task. It just means we should approach it with even more gusto.
Next Time…Please Do Something
The old adage stands true. The opposite of love is not hate – but apathy. Indifference is the killer – literally – in so many cases. Next time you are on a forum and see someone under attack, speak up. Next time your child complains about a particular person or a group of kids please take it more seriously. Next time you see an injustice, I hope you will stand up for what is right – regardless of how serious you deem the matter.
Thank you for taking the time to read this particular post. This is a topic that is very close to my heart. I welcome your thoughts and comments.
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pimkie_fotos/2512997167/