New and more intense forms of bullying are taking over social media

Photo+Illustration+by+EMMA+RICHIE

Photo Illustration by EMMA RICHIE

Photo Illustration by EMMA RICHIE

Who could have ever guessed that a tweet, originally a natural and beautiful sound made by birds, could bring such heartache, distress and sadness? When the creators of social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram imagined these new networks of communication, I highly doubt that they pictured a new age in bullying along with them.

Recently, cyber bullying and social networking has gained more national attention as a growing problem in youth culture. Ridiculously high numbers of news reports, articles and research has been done to show when, how, and perhaps why this new bullying occurs, yet no one has gotten to the source. That is, no adult has gotten to the source. A psychologist might say that it is due to the attention one receives online while others are watching and our emotional replies to others’ social pressures. A celebrity might scream out in outrage of all of the teens being hurt due to cyber bullying. Parents might buy self-help books on how to encourage their child to be their own person and to discourage social media sites. But as the past couple of years show, this isn’t doing any good.

If you visit any high school in America and ask students why they decide to make nasty remarks about their classmates, they won’t have a real answer. Some might reply with ‘choice words’ about the other student. Some might say that the other student hurt them, so they decided to be cruel right back to them. Some might just say that they were bored and had nothing else to do.

The fact of the matter is, there is no clear cut answer for cyberbullying in this day and age. There is no scientific formula for why teenagers are so mean to each other. They just are. Even so, adults are searching in the wrong areas to figure out the reasons why teens bully. If they truly want to get to the bottom of the evils of social networking, they should look deeper into the establishments adults have created. Systems of education in which only the smartest students are rewarded and the middle level students are chastised creates jealousy and greed. A society in which morbidly skinny girls are renowned for their bodies and yet at the same time, their weight is considered an outrage, creates confusion, self-confidence issues, and even more reasons for girls to be rude to each other.

This fast-paced, modern technological world of social networking sites encourages teens to voice their deepest thoughts in seemingly harmless ways, thus provoking inappropriate and hurtful words. Anonymous posts and privacy settings promote feelings of security in one’s own thoughts and words. Yet, even though one thinks that their identity is hidden or that only a selected group of individuals can view the post, news quickly spreads and feelings are badly hurt. Our society has made us to believe that if we are anonymous or if our thoughts are secretive to our group of friends only, that hurtful words cannot be harmful. This is a downright lie.

Anonymity only provides for false senses of superiority over another. With the simple click on an enter button, a girl can get a message on Tumblr saying that she is ugly, fat, worthless, pathetic, striving for attention, a whore, a slut, and many other horrible words along with comments such as “you should go kill yourself.” All of these things can be said without the victim even knowing who said them to her, making her feel helpless and isolated. Privacy settings may limit cruel posts for a small time to a select group of followers or friends, but day by day, the gossip spreads of ‘he said, she said’ and soon enough, the whole school knows about a bad yearbook photo and the girl is in tears. This is just simply wrong.

I say we put a stop to all of this useless bickering among ourselves and target our jealousy, anger, greed, sadness and isolation towards the source of the cruelty in our society: the media industry, the music industry, the flawed education system and all other adult-run establishments in which we, the students, are made to feel as if we are set against each other. We are made to feel small, disorganized and worthless compared to the big wide world waiting for us. Thus, we are pitted against each other through the most accessible form of abuse known to teenagers: our phones, Internet and computers. No more of this ridiculous ridicule of our classmates and friends.

One post may seem like a funny way to spend a Friday night with your friends. One tweet may seem like the perfect way to voice your anger or your annoyance with another person. One Tumblr message may seem like an ideal way to get back at someone you may have a problem with. However, think before you act. Think about the real reasons why we are sending these words out to the entire world before you press enter. To you, it may be no big deal. But to someone else, you could be saving someone from committing suicide.

by EMMA RICHIE