Here are a list of things that are no longer relevant today: the Katy Perry-Taylor Swift feud; apple-bottom jeans and boots with the fur; the T-Mobile Sidekick; and privacy. Yes, privacy. If you haven’t noticed, “What you say can and will be used against you,” is no longer just a Miranda Right.
The 21st century has been a dangerous era for teenagers in particular. With a lack of privacy arrives the need to keep up appearances. Uploading a photo onto your Instagram account is never as simple as sharing a moment but sharing wealth and status. A critical tweet is not just about an opinion but being inarguably right. Networks comprise of the easily offended and those who are “just putting others in their place.” After all, next to Disneyland, social media is the happiest place on earth–for people who are winning at it.
As a person who is far from soft-spoken, my handles are laden with bare-faced selfies, erotic poetry, and new philosophies. I often receive a generous amount of likes and positive comments regarding my boldness and bravery, save for the occasional hater who thinks I am “too loud.” When sharks bite, do you bite back? A younger me would’ve certainly thought so. But if social media is a perpetual game of who can be meaner, who wins? Does it even really matter?
Believe it or not, not everyone is out to offend you. When someone has realized they have hurt you by means of understanding facial expressions and the tone of your voice, they will, more often than not, apologize. This doesn’t exist on FaceBook and Twitter, where movements are carefully calculated and empathy remains a thing of the past.
Cyber bullies, who are shielded by a trusty sheet of fiber optic glass, are plagued with mob mentality, as they are usually part of one. People thrive on validation, and those who join Internet mobs don’t always do so with bad intentions. After all, if the majority thinks it, it must be true. Sometimes, they are just ill-advised.
This isn’t to say there aren’t some truly nasty players out in the virtual field. Some studies claim that cyber bullying has exponentially more negative effects than face-to-face abuse–this is because people feel less obligation to help, especially when disparaging tweets are easily swept away by a sea of song lyrics, play-by-plays, and borderline-creepy statements about Harry Styles.
Instructing kids to stay off social media is no longer an effective method of protection. After all, having an iPhone is no longer an option but a necessity. So how do we avoid getting cyber bullied? The simple answer is we can’t. But it’s up to us to respond.
Bullies thrive on attention. Anger is the fuel to their vehicle. Kill them with kindness or leave them in the dust. Whatever the case, act dignified. Compassion is a bully’s very own Kryptonite.
Report them. Harassment is by no means free speech. Reach out. Hardly ever is there a case where you are the “only one.” Educate yourself and others. Draw the line somewhere. The mute button is just a click away. Attack no one, but defend yourself. Know that bullies are people too.