I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. Bullying existed, and I am sure I even bullied some kids in elementary school. However, bullying happened at school, and I went home and left it behind me. That was until middle school and high school, and then the invention of the first “social medias”. It was then that Expage, and ICQ could be found on every teens computer. Expage was a user friendly webpage creation system. With a basic understanding of HTML you could create a webpage that had scrolling marquees and blinking text. You also could sign each others guestbooks and even do so anonymously. What harm could that cause?
Here was my Expage experience. One Saturday morning I woke up and logged onto my page. I started looking at my guestbook and saw that someone had commented. The words that filled the page were terrible. Someone was calling me names that I had to look up in a dictionary to find out what they meant. It was anonymous, of course. There was no way for me to know who did it. I deleted it, and logged off, a little unnerved. The damage was already done. I called a friend who had seen in and proceeded to tell me who they thought did it.
The next day, the same thing happened. In fact it happened every day, multiple times a day. I had a bully. A terrible, vicious bully. I was being bullied online, and there was nothing anyone could do to help me. The bullying online became bullying at school. The girl that my friend told me it was, would come up and say things to me. I couldn’t escape it. It was everywhere, and I became severely depressed. It turns out, my “friend” was the one who did it. She was also doing it to the other girl and telling her it was me. She created a rivalry where there didn’t need to be one. This rivalry turned me into a horrible person. My self-esteem plummeted, and I became someone that I didn’t like. There were times that I had no friends. I was lonely and miserable.
Bullying is something I see everyday of my life. On Facebook, if someone has a varying opinion than someone else, name calling and derogatory remarks ensue. People will post status updates about others, sometimes naming them, other times not. But it’s not just on social media that this is happening. As a whole, our society has become bullies. Adults and children alike. There is bullying happening in the work place, in the home, at church, online. It’s everywhere.
There is a common misconception that bullying occurs when someone is physically assaulted, repeatedly. While this is a form of bullying. It is not the only one. There are other forms as well.
Verbal bullying is one of the most notorious, and most apparent. This is the use of words to hurt someone. It is calling names, threatening, spreading rumors, gossiping. It can be about race, gender, weight, etc. Here are some examples of verbal bullying varying all aspects of life:
- A parent telling their kid they are worthless or calling them other names.
- A boss who ridicules an employee in front of everyone.
- Co-workers gossiping about another coworker.
- A sibling who calls the other sibling names.
- A teacher or administrator calling a student stupid.
My daughter was verbally bullied by a kid in her class. She told my daughter that she was stupid, was going to Hell, that nobody loved her and that was why she had to be adopted, and that someone was going to bring a gun in and shoot her. This girl terrorized my daughter so bad that her self-esteem dropped, she developed anxiety, and she cried everyday before school. I saw her collapse in a puddle of tears on the floor when she saw this girl at school, after she had moved away for a few months. I didn’t realize how bad it was until we removed her from the situation, and she began to open up to us about what happened.
Another form of bullying is relational bullying. This occurs when you deliberately alienate someone from a group. We tend to categorize this a cliques. While it’s true that we all have our group of friends that we enjoy talking to, relational bullying happens when you make an attempt to let someone know that they were left out. This can look like:
- A group of coworkers who plan a lunch in a common area and leave people out.
- A coworker telling another coworker that they must find someone else to work on a project with.
- A group of kids on a sports team that had a sleep over and left someone from the group out, and continually talk about the fun that they had in front of that kid.
- A boss who is friends with some of their staff, and spends time with them but not others, while making it known.
- A parent who favors one child and spends time with them, but not others.
- Grandparents who favor one child and spends time with them, but not others.
- A pastor who continuously posts pictures of themselves with some of their congregation eating at a restaurant, or playing games, when other congregation members were not invited and no attempt is made to form a relationship with them.
- A group of people discussing plans to go out to eat, in front of you, and not inviting you.
- A kid telling another kid to not be someone’s friend, or they won’t be their friend.
- Asking someone to go somewhere with you, and then leaving them behind.
This doesn’t mean that if I go out to eat with one of my friends, I can’t post a picture of us on Facebook. Showcasing our lives and our friendships is a normal part of life. It’s when we use positions of power, or we deliberately alienate someone that it becomes an issue.
I have already discussed another form of bullying, and that is cyberbullying. This is the use of any electronic device or platform to spread rumors, lies, pictures, and other mean words. It is also trying to intimidate a person into doing something. Some examples include:
- Coworkers spreading a picture around of another coworker with unflattering texts.
- A boss emailing an employee discussing another employee in an unflattering way.
- A pastor posting status updates about members of their congregations.
- A parent sending their child a text/email calling them names.
- A kid sending a text to another kid telling them are going to hurt them if they show up at school tomorrow.
- A teacher who is photographed under their stall, using the restroom, and the photo is circulated among the student body.
- An adult posting a status update about someone else, with or without their name being used.
- Someone using a meme to bash another political party.
- A government official using social media to target an opponent, or someone with a varying opinion.
- A teacher posting pictures of their class with unflattering words.
I wish I could say that all of the examples used in this blog are fictitious, but they aren’t. They are real-life examples that have happened to me, my family, friends, or people in social media groups that I belong to. There are so many more examples I could have used. I see and hear it every day. The question is, how do we stop it?
We need to start calling out the bullies. Take a stand. On social media, use a hashtag such as #thisisbullying to make others aware. Examine our own actions, and how they affect others. All of us are bullies, in some way or another. We gossip, we hide behind our social media accounts and post things we should. Teach kindness and respect to our children. Love one another despite our differences. Create a work/church environment of love and acceptance. Befriend someone who doesn’t seem to be included much. We need to become a culture that unites instead of divides.