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Cyberbullying And How It Can Work For You

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Cyberbullying is different from regular bullying. See, bullying is a tried and true tradition that was around when today’s grownups were a couple years removed from pooping their own pants. But cyber-bullying? Totally different can of worms. Instead of telling someone they suck, a mean person tells someone they sucks … on the Internet. And have you seen some of the crazy stuff on the Internet? Why, there are videos of hamsters skateboarding to Latin techno music. It’s crazy!

And praise Cthulhu for public service announcements from the National Crime Prevention Council designed to eliminate, illuminate, and maybe even stop cyberbullying. These ads streamed through my watching of episodes of WKRP In Cincinnati on Hulu.com. (What I was viewing will be an integral part to the thesis, hopefully.)

The NCPC PSA, aside from being a ridiculously difficult Scrabble hand, is branding this type of bullying as if it’s a separate beast from the classic atomic wedgie handed out at recess. Let’s not dress up this practice too much with fancy words. It’s just being mean on the Internet. And if being mean on the Internet is wrong, then kind sirs and madams, you might as well just take my Internet way from me.

The interaction between the alpha bully and the beta victim is one basically everybody endures at some point in the harsh, unforgiving miasma, known more commonly as middle school. This, the years for 12- and 13-year-olds, is when kids discover swearing is sometimes okay, your parents aren’t that cool, and playing with ones own naughty bits has a more profound effect than previously concluded. It’s also the time when kids might get their own semblance of freedom to browse the Internet and create their own virtual personae.

And here’s where the concern for people being cruel to one another online comes into play.

The above PSA quips, regarding Internet meanness, “If you wouldn’t say it in person, why say it online?” Uh, because it’s easier to be honest with someone over the Internet. No eye contact, no body language, and no voice to react to. This is why it’s easier to ask girls out on the Internet, and why it’s generally considered a cop-out on the rite of passage involving mumbles and stutters in front of one’s crush. So is the NCPC advocating not asking out your lab partner over IM, because little Preston is too shy to slide a handwritten note into her textbook?

Technology might change the way we communicate, perhaps for the worse, but it doesn’t mean it’s going away, and neither will Internet bully talk. You might have trouble believing this, but I myself was a “victim” of this “cyberbullying.” I may have had Geocities instead of MySpace growing up, but it’s all ones and zeroes. I vividly recall an anonymous friend creating a momma-joke-laden website basically directed toward me. All my friends saw it. They laughed at it. And I was so ashamed, I went and hung myself. They found me dead the next morning.

Okay, actually what I did is fought the fuck back. Remember, it’s easier to retaliate on the Web because there’s no physical interaction. The bullying website contained a link to a topless Carmen Electra, which was one of those clever “yo momma” jokes. And I knew that Geocities policy prohibited pornographic material or links. So I reported the page to Geocities admin, and the thing was taken down in a few days. I’d like to think I won, if not in the sense of “getting the page removed,” then certainly in the game of life, realizing that mean words can’t really harm you if you (a) lighten up and (b) stand up for yourself.

In a world where teenagers are over-sheltered at home, at school, and beyond, the Internet is probably the last frontier where they can actually get their feelings hurt, be glad it wasn’t a purple nurple, and learn a valuable life lesson for when they enter the real world where business executives and customers are way crueler.

I’m not condoning cyberbullying. Because that implies I’m tolerating the practice while deciding it’s not for me. No, I’m flat out advocating it. It’s healthy for the ch’i. Maybe you folks at the NCPC could stand to get into it a little. Yeah, I’m talking to you. Your PSA’s suck, and you suck too. Why are they so fucking horrible? Is it because your moms slept around and you’re afraid you’re a bastard child? I bet that’s what it was. Nobody likes you. Just go away. Goddamn losers.

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About Suss

  • OK, I laughed at this one. Was I supposed to? Am I politically incorrect for doing so? Or does it mean my sense of humor is two rungs above demented and I should be detained in a cyber-psych ward?

    The level of cyber bullying between teenagers doesn’t even catch my eye. I’ve been monitoring my kids’ MySpace since they went online, and the snarling and snarking that can go on is more like two puppies trying to eat each other.

    I myself have been a member of a supposed “adult” social networking site where harassing comments made to my posts were the norm. These comments weren’t critiquing my writing, my writing style or my subject matter. They were inflammatory comments which I could have sued over had I known the real names of the culprits.

    Therein lies the problem. I use my real name, but many hide behind a mask of anonymity. Hey, if you want to call me an f****** a******, how about showing yourself?

    What is scarier to me is cyber stalking, but that’s another issue altogether.

  • I would have to agree with Joanne, the inflammatory comments have rarely anything to do with what has been written. The problem is even further compounded, when such comments are allowed on a weekly’s blog, for example, CityBEAT, which I think only brings down the quality and the interest to the reader – not to mention discouraging its freelancers to contribute. I speak from experience.

    It’s very difficult to “lighten up” when you’re under a personal attack.

  • i loved the article…funny stuff!

    there seems to be a direct correlation between one’s anonymity and the size of one’s vocabulary – and the ability to use it…

    i prefer the anon-attacks as they are way more fun to “deal” with, as it were, and give me a chance to stretch my sarcastically sculpted debate muscles…

    those who attack from behind their names and often their pictures (adult or kid) are so easy to infuriate, it’s almost not worth it to go after them…all the fodder you need is right there in their bio, profile, image or a google search…

    kids especially say they operate without rules, but they have their own sacred cows – and rarely do they expect this card to be played…when the kid is known offline, it’s not that difficult for another child who is being attacked to ask his attacker, “how is your parents’ divorce going?” or “i remember your last birthday party…does your mom still drink like a fish?”

    adults are even easier to goad because they tend to think those sacred cows are indeed sacred – and many have less idea than kids just how much of their dirty laundry is already online…it hurts to be publicly reminded of your unemployment or your spouse’s cancer, but this is to be expected if you’re dumb enough to get into a flame war with someone who knows you offline – or knows of you online…

  • Mindy Ledbetter

    Violent language should only be used in self defense and only when all else fails. Do you also advocate physical violence outside self defense? Just asking. I’m sure you aren’t igmorant enough to believe that it is any less harmful than physical violence. All forms of abuse should be fought. In regards to the exception aforementioned, If I see you hurting another or myself on the net I will fight you till your computer screen scars your eyes.. then I will make sure everyone knows that you are an evil abusive bastard..get ya blacklisted outta town, etc.. wanna play now Mr. F-ing Chi?