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Technology Does Not Bully Others, People Do.

me at afterpartyLast August I was asked to join the cast of hit TV show Tallafornia for a few days. While chatting to fellow cast member Jay on the phone, he told me there was a heat wave in Santa Ponsa and the villa we would be staying in had a swimming pool. The villa also had its own private walk-way down to a stone balcony which had an amazing view of the ocean.  I couldn’t wait to get over there, Jay was having a great time and I thought I may as well have some fun in the sun.

I understood my every move would be caught on camera but what I did not realise is the extent some people go to comment very negatively on other peoples actions. I myself am not very technology proficient and only engaged in social media in a very limited way before I went on the show. The only people I add as friends on Facebook are people I actually know and I have only recently come to set up an account on twitter. Ever since I knew I would be taking part in the show I began to take notice of comments people made about the show and about the other cast members.

Although there were a lot of positive comments from people who enjoyed watching Tallafornia, there were also some very nasty ones. To be honest some comments shocked me. If people are capable of writing horrible things to people they don’t even know, then it’s not impossible to imagine what they are capable of writing to others they don’t like in the workplace, in school or in college. I quickly started to see a different side to the society I once knew, a side I had heard and read about from the media but never witnessed myself.

Anyone in the public eye is aware there is always someone that will try put you down. Even though I’ve only had a small part to play in Tallafornia and would certainly not consider myself a celebrity, I have already experienced some nastiness online. However it is not just people in the public eye or on TV that experience this. This problem is widespread in Ireland today. While cyber bullying does not affect me, I am very aware it has, and does, affect others.

A study carried out by the Anti-Bullying Centre at Trinity College Dublin identified the most common effects of bullying. Stress, anxiety about going to work or school, loss of confidence, depression, aggressive behaviour, drug and alcohol abuse and attempted suicide are some of the most common experiences of those who fall victim to bullying. We really need to examine how we speak to others online. The words we use are just as affecting or destructive online as they are offline. But why do some people think it’s acceptable to write horrible things to, or about others online?

The problem is not technology itself and we should in no way discourage anyone from using the internet any less. Developing digital skills is essential in todays and indeed tomorrow’s world. The problem is the behaviour of those using technology. Technology does not bully others, people do. Their reasons for doing it can vary. Perhaps it is to distract themselves from their own insecurities, or maybe to get back at somebody. There are some who don’t even realise they are engaging in bullying behaviour and then there are those who think it’s just a bit of fun.

Whatever the reason cyber bullying is intentional, repeated, aggressive and is damaging both physically and mentally. It involves unwanted messages, images, audio or video sent by electronic means with the intention to threaten abuse or harm someone. So what can be done?

As a society we must develop intolerance to cyber bullying and indeed all forms of bullying if we are to protect others and keep them safe. Bullying can happen to anyone anywhere; therefore we need to challenge bullying whenever and wherever we see it.

As difficult as it is to hold back from responding to a horrible message, a reaction is exactly what a bully is looking for. Block or report the bully. Log off, unfriend, save evidence (take a screen shot) and talk to someone you trust. As much as we’d like to, we cannot stop all people being cruel to others but what we can change is how others are affected by it and our own mentality towards this type of behaviour. We should take the responsibility in communicating our thoughts in a respectful and non-bullying way to others.

I think it’s always nice to get a complement. It’s hard not to smile when somebody says something nice to you. So why not tell someone if you like their new jumper, or new hairstyle or the results of their hard work. Tell them in a complimentary way. It’s good to make someone smile and you never know it might be just what they need on that particular day to boost their morale and provide a feel good factor. We need to take it upon ourselves as individuals to decide that having a positive mentality and encouraging others (not only in person but on the internet too) can have an impact on someone’s day or maybe even their life.

I am going to use my experience on Tallafornia to make a change in my life. I will encourage friends, family and colleagues that while they are entitled to their opinions on the internet that they write them in a reasonable and respectful way.

Too much harm is being caused by bullying and negative behaviour. I am a firm believer that ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all’. In terms of technology then I believe ‘if you can’t write anything nice, don’t write anything at all’. An opinion can be expressed without the use of abusive or hurtful language.

For more information on the topic of cyber bullying log on to www.spunout.ie/cyberbullying.

By Aislinn Kennedy

 

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    • Gen
    • March 2nd, 2013

    Hi Aislinn I agree with everything you said in your article. However, I do feel what you guys did giving Cormac Marc’s number instead of yours was in some way contributing to the bullying that quite obviously goes on in the house against Cormac. I think if you had have had time to think about the possible consequences of this I really believe you wouldn’t have gone ahead with it but just goes to show how easy we can all get caught up in the process of bullying in one form or another.

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