Friday, June 15, 2012

Social Network Bullying

Bullying has become an American epidemic as of late.  With the advent of social media, not only has it become easier to pick on someone, but it has become more visible to the public in general.  Even though the technology has progressed the speed and ways someone can bully, the reasons have remained the same.   Bullying isn’t blind, but it is most definitely ignorant.  Underlying factors to why a person is bullied can still be attributed to looks, speech, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, social beliefs, or just simply a way to show off and prove dominance.  Just because it takes place in social media does not change the "whys". 

 An Old man has scars on his face? Definitely an opening to why a young person would make fun of him, but what they wouldn’t realize is those scars might be from his military career and he got those from protecting our rights.  Those same rights that are being abused by a bully making fun of him.  This ignorance can be passed along to a young pregnant girl.  Sure she makes for an easy target for a pack of juveniles, especially because of shows like 16 and Pregnant on MTV, but little would they know she might be pregnant because of an unfortunate rape.  It is this very ignorance of facts that drive most bullies down their destructive paths.    

However, when we speak of social media bullying this can be a direct effect on how a person acts or speaks on camera or on their Facebook page.  It’s a general consensus that people say and do stupid things all the time.  But never before in human history has the stupid things we say and do become permanent on a social platform.  Many times these are not even self-inflicting screw ups.  What if a young kid slips and falls walking down the hallway at school and someone happens to catch it on camera? It might become viral on their school network, and yes, it will be embarrassing to all the kids that person sees on a daily basis, but imagine if you were that person and it goes viral on YouTube.  I’ve read the comments people post on there and they are brutal.  And the fact that it is anonymous makes it even worse. Up until the last decade or so bullying was a face to face problem.  Now anyone from anywhere in the world has the ability to throw racial and sexual slurs to anyone that is on a social network.  All you need for that is an email address, and you can acquire a new one of those very easily from any number of internet providers.  Unfortunately, it is like the Wild West out there. Except this time there are no Wyatt Earps to help corral the bad guys and make sure justice is served.  And sure posts can be removed, but usually only after the damage is done.  It is not just the typical bullies either.  There are kids out there that are usually the ones being bullied in life that find a release in becoming bullies online.  Anger that is directed at those who otherwise they could not make fun of are now the focus of their rage. 

If there were to be a silver lining to all the state of the art bullying, it would be that cries for help can no longer go unnoticed.  For ignoring them usually comes with huge penalties.  It seems like every day in the news young children and adults everywhere are committing suicide that can be linked back to bullying of some kind.  And usually you can find their previous cries for help on their social network accounts.  With our growing knowledge of these avenues of interaction we are learning to look for early signs of severe depression and misconduct.  Prior to the age of technology we wouldn't be able to spot these troubled individuals before it was too late.

  So who are these new sheriffs that are going to stop this cyber-bulling from taking place? It's not going to come down to a single person.  It is going to take a collective effort from all of us who frequent these sites to patrol them for offenders.  But even before that it starts at home.  It starts with what we teach our children.  How they interact with their siblings and peers, and especially how they respond to criticism.  Because one thing we will not be short of in our internet lives is criticism.  This isn't a place were people will be polite to you if they do not like something about you, or about your taste or distaste for something.  We are going to have to teach our future generations that with every effort of positivity you put into something there is more than likely going to be an equal effort of negativity being pushed back at you.  It is how you handle these potential bullies that will make or break you and them.  Take away a bullies need for superiority and you take away their power.  Bullies without that power are not bullies at all, they become sad and desperate people that hopefully change their ways of social interaction.

The awareness the media has for bullying these days is at an all time high, but we need to make sure it continues until ultimately it is abolished.  However, we do have to be careful not to eventually cross the line and become a nation and world that stands against our deepest values.  The ability to talk freely must always thrive, but it is in our own natures and our own educations and social lives that we have to turn the Wild West of the internet into the promised land of the New American Frontier.

See how The Prevention Team  helps to stop bullying in your neighborhood.

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