Monday, March 9, 2015

Cyber Bullies Suck

If we're Facebook friends, chances are that you already saw my stance this morning on cyber bullying. To sum it up, I dislike it greatly. In my family, we will not post photos of people we do not know unless we're giving them mad props for a phenomenal outfit, record breaking hair days, or exhibiting crazy mad skillz. Otherwise, it is of no business of mine to post someone's pic for the world of FB and twitter to weigh in on.

If we're not friends on the ole Facebook, here's a snapshot to bring you up to speed:

I'm not really sure why people feel the need to publicly shame someone they do not know. Would you ever stand in line at the grocery store and shout "hey everyone, check out this dude's jorts!!" No, absolutely you would not. And if you answered "yes" to that question, well then I'm not sure we can be blog friends any longer. Sorry. It's not me, it's you.
I experienced cyber bullying for the first time about 4.5 years ago as a college cheerleading coach. One of my beloved cheerleaders, who has a heart of gold, fell victim to someone's mean spirit on Facebook. To this day, I'm not sure if he ever saw the post or not, but I pray that he did not. Sadly, a LOT of people did see it and it broke my heart. As he walked to practice on the campus of the military college where I worked/he cheered, an upperclassmen took a photo of him from behind and added a nasty comment making fun of him and an even nastier comment about how the boy's father must be so proud. Needless to say, the comment elicited many ugly comments before it was brought to my attention by another one of my cheerleaders. Luckily for our guy, there's an honor code in place at this college and we jumped into action to have the post removed. The picture was removed, but the anger and hurt it evoked did not fade as quickly as the photo did.
As the coach, I was asked if I'd like to address those who had posted and commented on the photo, and you can bet your bottom dollar I accepted the offer. It just so happened that I was on sick leave that week for a slipped disc in my back, but I pulled myself out of bed and limped my way into the Commandant's office and into a room full of 8 college men, many of who had already contracted into the military. To say that it was intimidating would be an understatement, but I held my ground and tried to keep my emotions in check as I spoke.
My whole point in meeting with them wasn't to reprimand them, as I knew based on their comments on the posts, they could probably care less about what this 5'5, 30 something woman had to say about social media and their ignorance. Instead, I wanted them to know a little about the person they chose to publicly shame. If they were going to cast judgment and mockery, they should at least know who they had mocked. I shared some of his background and how much he LOVED that college. I shared how PROUD he was to be their classmate and how WELCOMING he was to everyone around him. More importantly, I shared with them that he DID NOT have a father. His father had LEFT years before and how I'm certain that event in his life left him with enough uncertainty about the level of his father's pride in him. He did NOT need any reminders of the fact that he may never know if his father is proud of him or not. Lastly, I shared how disappointed I was in them. Ninety percent of those in the room staring at me were athletes. This guy that they were shaming stood on THEIR sidelines and cheered them on every single weekend. Win or lose, he was their fan. He would never even consider shaming them for a fumbled play or an air ball. Never. He was top-notch and he was classy. He did not embody what they labeled him and he never would.
I walked out of that room knowing that about 75% of the faces that I just spoke to felt remorse. They apologized and felt ashamed knowing more of his story. The remaining 25% made me sick to my stomach as I spoke to their smug faces. They felt nothing. One gentlemen guy even told me he was not sorry and that it's a public forum and "you can say whatever you want". I told him that although that is true, I hope no one ever invokes that right when it comes to his mother, sister, girlfriend or father.
I know bullying has been around since the creation of time, but my hope is that the positive voices out there start to become the louder ones. See someone post a picture of an unsuspecting person online? Don't comment back. Or if you do, build that person up. This world is tough and life is hard enough without people you don't even know tearing you down. Especially in such a public way. It's just not right.
Be kind. Be affirming. And be louder than those who are not. It's really that simple.

1 comment:

Alayna said...

Saw this earlier on the Internet and am so happy for the outcome