I recently saw the movie, Cyberbully (via ABC Family and available in Redbox). Although the quality left something to be desired, I thought the message behind the movie was a worthy subject that, in my opinion, has been a bit neglected.
With the rise of social media sites in the early 2000s, many states enacted cyberbullying/cyberharassment/cyberstalking laws after concerned parents and teachers started raising awareness about the effect social networks were having on teens. There were even a few very public and sad stories shared about teens committing suicide due to the pressures of cyberbullying, especially within schools.
In fact, this movie was based on a true story about a teen who attempted to commit suicide after being attacked online by her peers through a social network.
Fortunately, the legislation gave school boards the basis on which to try and limit student's use of social networking sites, especially on school property, as well as find appropriate punishment to deal with cybercrimes in school. Unfortunately, teens still have access to their social media vices at home, on their phones and at their friend's houses. I mean, at the very least, everyone has Facebook, well, a lot of the world's population does. According to these statistics, as of 2011, there are 500,000,000 active FB accounts, which means 1 in every 13 people on earth has a FB account... half of them are logged in on any given day. You should check out this infographic, it really has a lot of interesting statistics about FB use.
Although my parents would like to think that the solution is to just have their kids delete their Facebook accounts, in reality, that's not happening. Social media is my generation's thing - it's how we communicate, how we maintain our relationships, our status within our circles... it's grown beyond the point where you can just get rid of it. To all of you doubters - social media isn't going anywhere, in fact, it will probably continue to grow at astounding rates, so we better get used to it.
In this movie, the main character has an onslaught of hateful posts and comments on her "Friendster" page - from someone hacking into her profile and saying she's a whore, to someone else pretending to be a love interest only to say he got STDs from the main character, ruining the main character's reputation and driving her to post a video saying good bye before trying to swallow a bottle of pills.
It's quite sad, but from my experience, I think cyberbullying has taken another level - a much more sophisticated level of cyberbullying. In fact, to most people it's not even noticeable - whether you're doing the bullying or are on the receiving end.
What is this new type of cyberbullying? Flattery. Yes, you read that right. Flattery, as in compliments and likes and smiles. Think about it... have you ever left a comment on a "Friend's" photo/post/status that said something mean? Probably not. You probably leave compliments and positive thoughts..."You're so beautiful! Stunning! I'm so jealous! Cute dress! So hot!" Now, I sure hope you mean it every time you say it, but I will be the first to admit that often I say something nice but in my mind, I'm judging left and right..."She dyed her hair again? This color so does not look good. etc..."
You're probably thinking I'm a terrible person, and I agree... it's wrong to do so, but let's be honest, you've probably done it at least once.
Oh and then some of us take it to the next level. We "like" a picture on FB and then a few seconds later we're texting/calling/talking and feeding the rumor mill... "Did you see? Her wedding was so this or that. I can't believe she's dating him or she's pregnant again." Sometimes, they're harmless observations or the spreading of good news. But, most of the time, it's really not necessary to share everything you see on your FB or Twitter feed.
The other version of cyberbullying? The ridiculous expectations we set for each other. We compete with our statuses, our photos, even our friends. If you can honestly tell me that every time you log on FB, you don't feel any envy for any of your friends news/updates, then I'd tell you that you're my hero and probably somewhat delusional.
I think it's part of our human nature to want what someone else has, you know, the whole the grass is greener in your neighbor's yard, or whatever the expression is. And social media platforms are constantly updated and well manicured exhibitions of our lives at their best - it's our reputation and to some, our self-worth.
There are definitely more important measures of our success, beauty, confidence and everything else, but at this time, for many, social media is the judge. It's public nature (even if your profile is set to private), leaves your life open to discussion, envy, judgment and speculation.
Don't get me wrong though! I love social media - I think it's genius and has redefined the way we communicate, believe and live. But, many people don't talk about the effects social media has on us - emotionally and psychologically. It's still such a new concept and we think that by setting parameters on cyberbullying and enabling privacy laws, we're good to go. But, I think we still have a long way to go - it's a learning process.
So, what do you think? Am I the only one who thinks cyberbullying has taken on a new form via flattery and sophisticated rumor mills? If not, then how do we solve this problem?