Bullying and the Social Media Mob
I have a new idol, and her name is Jennifer Livingston. Seriously, I want her to be my new BFF. If you haven’t seen the viral video of her brilliant response to a bully who told her she was overweight and therefore a poor role model -- WOW. Watch it now.
What an excellent role model she turned out to be -- to both kids AND adults alike.
Especially fattish female adults like me.
She had a powerful message for ALL adults though — not just those of us with excess body fat…
Too true… especially since kid bullies can be the worst.
I know this because I was bullied in grade school by a little ring of classmates known as “The Monetteskis.” When I look back now, it’s kind of hilarious because at 11 years old I was a pretty tall kid, and they were all smaller than I was. And their ringleader, Monette? She was the tiniest of them all.
Mind-boggling, I tell you.
Man, those midgets were mean. They made my life miserable! They even sent me a poison-penned poem.
Okay, the poem was actually longer and more lyrical than that, but that was the gist.
I don’t even remember the crime I’d allegedly committed – but I sure suffered for it. And since the small but terrible Monetteskis were like a plaid-clad preteen version of the Mafia, everyone else either joined in or stayed neutral but silent.
Eventually I waved the white flag from my lonely isle of misery and to my great relief, little Miss Napoleon and her peeps accepted the terms of my peace pact.
I laugh about it now, but there are 3 lessons I learned from that experience:
1. Bullying sucks. This is a no-brainer.
2. You don’t need to be big to be an effective bully. Just ask Monette and her mini-minions.
3. Bullying is contagious. It finds and gains strength in numbers, in the affirmation of others, and in the passive silence of those who know it’s wrong but choose to turn a blind eye.
We’re all aware of these truths, but sadly, in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and what I call the “Social Media Mob,” it’s become increasingly easier for us to forget them and become bullies ourselves. I’m ashamed to admit it, but even I’ve been guilty of participating in the Internet gang-bashing of certain infamous individuals.
Admittedly, they’re bullies too, and they had quite a bit backlash coming to them. And I’ll be honest – I don’t like them. At all. But I don’t think I’m the only person who thinks that some of their online attackers went a little too far.
Today’s Social Media Mob is a lot like the angry mobs of old, but on STEROIDS (and dopamine).
When we’re in a group, it’s easy to get caught up in the uproar, and shout out things we wouldn’t normally say on our own, in real life. And every time we get a reaction (via a like or retweet, for example), the dopamine rush sucks us in even further.
One of the greatest things about the Internet is that it gives us all power. It’s the great equalizer. Today, everyone has a voice, and everyone can be heard. It doesn’t matter who we are. We may be small, but we can be terrible.
As great as this is, it’s also a little troubling.
Because the truth is that many of us aren’t accustomed to wielding this new-found power, and have no idea of its consequences, or the destruction it can leave in its wake. It’s too easy to let the anonymity of the Internet and the snowball effect of the Social Media Mob turn us into the very people we claim to despise.
Power was always meant to be a force for good, to protect the weak and make the world a better place. So it needs to be restrained by responsibility, guided by a spirit of service, and tempered with compassion and common sense.
We can take a stand for what we believe in without being A-holes. Go! Voice your opinion. Be angry, and rant if you must. But be responsible for the consequences your words may have. Don’t be rash, and please… don’t be ridiculous.
Like this guy…
I swear to God, I actually saw a tweet like this among the #NotoCybercrimeLaw Twitter protests. WTH.
We’re better than this. We can be the example Jennifer Livingston talks about, and take a stand against bullying – just by choosing not to be bullies ourselves. It’s a small start, but all it takes is one drop to start the ripple effect. If we can be small but terrible on the web, we can also be small and terrific.
Peace, people! :) - Rappler.com