Monday, December 2, 2013

The real reason why bullying is such a huge problem

When I was a kid, I rarely saw people screaming or attacking one another on television. When I did, it was a drama or some kind of 'made up' television show that was merely a form of entertainment. Nothing more, nothing less.

Celebrity news was not the sensationalized rating game fueled by slimy paparazzi trying to make a quick buck. Not to suggest there was never any earth-shattering celeb news back in the day, but it wasn't quite as insane as it appears to be now.

Politicians probably attacked one another, but it wasn't covered by 24-hour news channels that were competing to keep their ratings up. If there was an attack, I doubt it was as petty and ridiculous as most of the ones we see on the news and online today.

So, am I suggesting that television is the root of all evil? Am I saying that it is to blame for people personally attacking one another? Is the media to blame for teenage cyberbullying?

Of course not.

What I am saying is that we now live in a world where attacking one another is just the norm. People are angry and are sometimes looking for the first person who disagrees with them, in order to fly off the handle. That's why we have road rage. That's why parents are screaming horrific things at their children's hockey games. That's why people go to Black Friday sales and tear each other's arms off in order to save ten bucks on a box of Lego.

Currently, I have no car. I live in a rural area where people are pretty laid back and relaxed. Realistically, I shouldn't be dealing with pretentious assholes who are attacking me personally at this time. But you know what, I am. And it's mostly online.

On two occasions in the past month, I have posted my opinion on a site. One was Huffington Post and the other was a group on Linkedin. Neither was attacking, but merely stating my opinion (which I worded very carefully in order to be clear on the fact that it was my opinion and nothing more) and in both cases, I was personally and viciously attacked by a stranger for my opinion. You would think that I suggested something radical and evil like killing babies, but in both cases, it was me doing what I always do, which is attempting to look at the other (often, less popular) side of things. As it turns out, that was a reason to be attacked by some random assholes.

In both cases, I removed myself from the group/site simply because I didn't think that it was worth it to be attacked over an opinion. It just frustrated me and I would have this knee-jerk reaction to jump on and counter or 'react' to the comment, rather than just say 'Fuck it' and move on. It wasn't worth it.

My point is that if I'm being personally attacked by complete strangers online for some pretty uncontroversial comments, what does that say about our world? And why should teenagers (who grow up in environments where adults are attacking one another online, on television, in the news and celebrities are ripping each other apart on Twitter) be any different? How can we tell teenagers that it is wrong to bully when we (as a society) are doing the exact same thing every day

If I am online is ripping apart what Kim Kardashian is wearing (or not wearing) or spreading malicious gossip about someone in my neighborhood, who am I to tsk teenagers for doing the same thing? I'm obviously a pretty small portion of the problem. Young people today are exposed to more than any generation before and sadly, are often adopting what they see. It's like the alcoholic who tells their kid to never drink. Sure, it's great advice but if that is not what they are seeing in their homes from day to day, it may already be so ingrained in their lives that its just simply seem like the normal way to live.

One of the best pieces of advice that I ever heard in the working world was to lead by example. If you do your job well chances are those around you will feel encouraged to do the same. Another great piece of advice is that we create our own world. So what kind of world are we creating?

A few years ago, I wrote a manuscript about teenage bullying. I was inspired to do so after hearing about Columbine and something told me, even back then, that things were about to get worse before they got better. I sent it to a publisher who thought it was too violent, too 'gang-like' and he all but told me that the concept wasn't realistic. Boy was he wrong. I put the manuscript aside and started a new project, that would later become my first book, Fire

The problem seems complex, but then again, maybe it's simple. Don't suppose catty reality shows. Turn off the news when you see politicians ranting about one another rather than talking about what they plan to do for us, the people who voted them into office. Don't contribute to attacks online and report people who do. These little things add up and send a message.

And the next time you are with someone who makes malicious remarks about someone else maybe you should call them for what they are - a bully.

Canadian author Mima is known for her complicated and diverse characters, a dark style and for never shying away from controversial topics. To request an interview or if you are interested in doing a book review, please send requests here  
Mima is the author of Fire and the prequel, A Spark before the Fire, as well as The Rock Star of Vampires and Her Name is Mariah. Join Mima on Facebook, Twitter, G+ and Goodreads also, check out her Amazon Author Page

For some reading, check out her blogs – personal or writing

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