Are We Meaner Online Than In Person?

Preface:

We are addressing the issue of online bullying because following the turmoil surrounding the election, there has been a growing increase of hate speech in the world. There is content being posted online daily, where people have made horrible messages or posts based around religion, race, politics, sexual preference and the likes. This is not a purely one-sided struggle; there is talk from both sides of the fence online, whether that be based on any number of controversial content being shared in today’s online-focused society. We hope this article can shed some light on the true damage online bullying can do.


Social Media, Taking The Good With The Bad


No one can deny the value of social media. It allows us to witness real-time, firsthand accounts of uprising in other countries. We are able to stay connected to friends we meet along the way and we depend on social media for well… our social life. But does the ease of sharing information and the anonymity of social media give people permission to be meaner online than they would be in person? And how do we parse the good and the bad of social media?


Worldwide, on Facebook alone, there are over 1.79 billion monthly active Facebook users, and 4.5 billion likes generated daily. Every 60 seconds on Facebook, 510 comments are posted, 293,000 statuses are updated. Every tenth of a second there is a comment. When you look at the numbers you lose sight that those comments posted so continuously, are not innocuous; in fact they have power to support or damage the person on the other end of the conversation.


If You Can’t Be Seen, Is It Still Bullying?


Each and every day, there are people experiencing cyberbullying, mostly alone because they are hurt by what is said, but too embarrassed or upset to speak-up. A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that about one-third of students who had been cyberbullied had symptoms of depression. According to the i-Safe Foundation, “Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyberbullying.” Of those who were bullied, slightly more than one-quarter showed symptoms of depression and even worse, thoughts of self-harm or even suicide. And a survey by Cyberbullying Research Center, shows that females are victims more than their male counterparts. One quarter of girls have been cyberbullied in their lifetime while less than 17 percent of boys have.


Cyberbullying has been prevalent for a long time, but because of today’s escalated hate talk, increased anger and threats, Cyberbullying is on the rise.


Not Just Teenagers

Don’t fool yourself into thinking this is a high school issue, 70% of those between the ages of 13 and 25 have been the victim of cyberbullying. Of those who had been cyberbullied in college, 25% said it was through social networking sites, 21% through texting, 16% through email and 13% through instant messaging. And Professors are not immune to the harassment.


According to a new study from the University of Washington, researchers found college-age females just as likely to suffer the negative effects of cyberbullying as younger adolescents.


There seems to be a notion that talking online, through screens, gives an air of anonymity. We can say anything we want through the screen because we may never see the person in real life, or may never be bold enough to say such things in person.


What we are not realizing here are the repercussions that come from talking behind a screen; the real-life consequences that affect both the bully and the bullied. And bullying can take form in multiple vehicles; it can be words, pictures, or even emojis. The smallest gesture can be a form of bullying, if it is done with the intent to hurt someone else.


So aren’t we the same person behind the screen than we are in front of it? Acting like somebody we are not just because of anonymity lacks logic.


Your Comments Never Go Away


The person behind the bullying can face long-term consequences as well. In today’s day and age, what you say online is taken as part of your personality. Employers, friends, and family are capable of looking up profiles and see what we are saying and sharing on our sites. Thus, if we give off a negative profile via derogatory or inappropriate content we have shared, we are put in jeopardy of losing jobs, friends, or family.


So how do we parse the good and the bad of social media? Social media is not going anywhere and with new devices it will become easier and easier to post. So it comes down to the individual. Each person must stop and think before they hit send, they must speak up when they see it happening to others and most importantly to understand the damage that is happening on both sides of the screen.


So, before we go ahead and post content we don’t mean, content that can potentially hurt someone else, we need to stop and think, “Is this worth it?” Is it worth the possible damage with their friends, family, co-workers or fellow students. And to remember there are humans behind each screen and the same power of the online world to do great things can also do great harm lasting sometimes for a lifetime.


For inspiration view:

Lizzie Velasquez’s TED Talk.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c62Aqdlzvqk Once labeled, "The Worlds Ugliest Woman,"on social media, Lizzie Velasquez had to endure comments like “Why would her parents keep her?!" ,kill it with fire" said another. And some commentators said she should kill herself. But she unlike the majority of victims online became on of the most popular TED talks when she decided to turn things around and create her own definitions of what she defines as beauty and happiness.


To get involved in stopping cyberbullying visit http://www.deletecyberbullying.org

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