Bullying and the Internet
When I started writing this blog, a loved one voiced some concern. She stated that she wanted me to be able to write but that she was nervous about me posting things online as people can be so negative and so mean. This same person has known me my whole life, so they also know that I was bullied as a child. Pretty bad. There were many times that I can remember the sting of that mean girl shooting me down or crying in the tub at night when my mom would ask me how school was. Remembering that I felt unliked, that I did not fit in or that people thought I was different. Remembering that the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” was not true at all. And that when someone would say that to me, it just made me want to cry. Words hurt. Period. What you say matters. Period. And even years later as I move into adulthood, those words still hurt.
Now, I am not saying this to you in order to garner sympathy, but rather to make a specific point. Why do people have to be so mean? As a child, and really still as an adult, I always did my own thing and beat to my own drum. I had friends, good friends, but I also did not fall into the “in” crowd or spent any time trying to change my behaviour to fit in. This could be as simple as not wanting to get the brand name clothes to sticking to my guns on not drinking all throughout high school. And like most individuals who do not adhere to the “norm”, I was made fun of. Girls were mean and would turn my friends against me. Boys would be rude or make comments on my appearance. And it hurt. It filled me with insecurities and poor self-esteem that I am still working on overcoming today. It made feel lost and not wanting to go to school and it made me feel alone in a way that I have never experienced before. And yet, I survived.
And I continued to be who I wanted to be, not who people thought I should be.
I was fortunate that I had support. I had other friends around me and a family who loved me. I had my hobbies and interests that allowed me to meet other people who were not nasty and accepted me for me. And I had a strong personality. A personality that although hurt by these bullies actions, moved on to better and brighter things. A personality that understood that those individuals who were being mean to me were the problem, not me. And, I was able to see light at the end of the tunnel.
However, most important of all, I was being bullied in a time when social media was just beginning, when there was no online bullying or trolls. And that is the difference today. My loved one who is worried about me being bullied online understands the impact. My friends and family have also seen the impact. But, unlike me as a young girl, I did not face the constant bombardment that people are seeing today, and that makes me sad.
Cyberbullying in Canada is happening at an alarming rater. According to Statistics Canada nearly one in five internet users aged 15 to 29 have reported being cyberbullied or cyberstalked. 1 in 5 of our youth are being harassed in some format online and it is only getting worse. We are seeing more and more instances of youth developing anxiety or depression related to bullying (both online and in person), dropping out of school because it gets so bad, or even worse, dying by suicide. And, it is not just happening with our youth. Taunts like “you are a fat ugly cow”, “go kill yourself” or “I hope you get raped” are being thrown at people of all ages. Think about that. “I hope you get raped.” Really?
Now, consider this. That is being said by another person. Another human being. And yet it is happening more and more. People are trolling on the internet saying the meanest things possible and yet nothing seems to stop it. There is no way that another person could stand in front of someone and say to their face “I hope you die.” Or, if there is, they are definitely pathological and may need some extensive help. But, it is happening all day every day. Go on an account of anyone who is in the public eye and read the comments. Or actually don’t because it is atrocious. It is appalling and it keeps happening.
Why do people have to be so mean to each other? Is it necessary? No. So, if you are reading this, there is a few things I want you to remember.
- If you are one of those people who say cruel and hurtful things online. Piss off. Don’t be an asshole. There is another person on the other end of that computer and the comments you are sending to them are impactful. They hurt in a way that cannot be described and if you were the one on the other end, how would you feel?
- If you are a person who is receiving one of those comments, remember that person is being a dick. You do not deserve that harassment and it is not reflective of who you are as a person or how the real people in your life see you. Block them. Delete them. If necessary, get off social media so that you can get a true sense of yourself, not the fictionalized one that online time can create. You are more than your online person. If you feel overwhelmed or it becomes too much, get help. It is OKAY to not be okay.
- If you are a loved one of a person who is being harassed, support them. Don’t question them, do not victim blame and validate that they are not what these people are saying. Get them outside support if they need it. And help them remember that they are loved and cared for regardless of these idiots online. Give positive feedback, not criticism.
- Do not stop doing what you love. People may be negative and mean to me in my writing, but I like to write. Period. Do not let rude individuals deter you from fostering the things that bring you joy in life because then they are winning. They are trying to make you feel bad and by holding yourself back from the things that you love; you will feel bad. It feels a whole lot better to say a screw you by doing what you love than not.
- Finally, for all of us, be kind. Regardless of whether it is online or in person or just an opinion. There is no need to be mean. We all have our own shit and we all need support and there is no benefit to anyone by treating people with cruelty or disrespect. We are all human, we all make mistakes, and we are just trying to figure things out as we go.
So, don’t be a dick.