I was bullied in primary school. Not horrifically, not so badly that teachers or parents were involved. But badly enough that I can remember every comment with clarity and still feel the sting. In high school there was bullying. More underhanded and sly in the way that teenager girls can be. And I went along with it – I didn’t always stand up for my friends. I remember that with clarity and wince. That’s the thing about cruelty – it tends to cling. No matter how loudly you play Taylor Swift on the radio, you can’t always shake it off. The fact is bullying hurts and it hurts for a long time. It also seems to have reached epic proportions. No longer the sole territory of the playground bully or the teenage queen bee, we now see grown women entering the fray. Keyboard warriors throwing sharp words and cutting deep.
My gorgeous friend Alli from Alli & Co is standing up and saying “enough“. Enough with the barrage of criticism. Enough with tearing each other down. Enough with the judgement. Enough with the words that would never be uttered at a dinner party but are somehow acceptable on social media. Enough. I stand with her.
Online bullying seems to fall into two distinct camps. There is the intentional bullying. The very specific, targeted nastiness. I cannot even go there. I cannot comprehend what satisfaction lies in doing that.
Then there are the comments that snowball out of control. When passionate people write passionate responses, forgetting (perhaps not caring) how their comments affect other people. This happens so often. And we just need to be a little more mindful.
Ideas are important. Points of view should vary. Opinions should be expressed. But I vehemently believe we can do that without treading on each other. I think we can show compassion and respect and argue our points of view at the same time. I am not advocating rainbows and unicorns and group hugs. I am advocating coherent argument rather than going for the cheap shot.
So before commenting, here are a few things to think about:
- Would I say this at a dinner party to the person sitting opposite me?
- Does this add anything constructive to the discussion?
- Have I actually read the article being referenced, or am I just jumping on the comments?
- If someone said this to or about me, how would I feel?
- Am I discussing, defending or arguing an idea? Or am I judging, criticising or insulting a person?
- What has motivated me to make this comment?
And on, the flip side, before taking a comment to heart, here are a few things to think about:
- Does the commentator have a point?
- Can I learn something from this?
- Are they attacking me or, in reality, are they attacking my idea about something?
- Am I taking it much more personally than it was intended?
- Is the comment worth the head and heart space it is taking up?
Systematic online bullying is a terrible, terrible thing. I don’t know what to do about it and I hope that we have some more robust ideas by the time my children are online. It saddens me to see businesses close, bloggers silenced and lives torn apart by people hiding behind screens.
Careless commentary also hurts and I CAN do something about that. I CAN be aware of my actions. I CAN call that out when I see it. I can help #BanishTheBully