With the advance of technology it has become so incredibly easy to access the internet from almost any part of the globe. I don’t even need a physical computer anymore; I am writing this blog post from my cell phone. It really is an incredible thing.
However today I’m discussing a more serious issue, an issue that is made, unfortunately, considerably more easy because of technology. I wanted to write about bullying, and even more specifically the rise of cyberbullying.
Stopbullying.gov defines cyberbullying as:
“Bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Electronic technology includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites. Examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.”
Generally when discussing statistics or stories about cyberbullying we think of children in schools, but many adults face cyberbullying as well. A Pew Research Study survey found that almost 75% of American Adults have witnessed online harassment, with 40% reporting to be the victim of it. These are not low numbers.
Sometimes it can seem harmless enough. A picture shared, a simple joke among friends. Many times I have seen a topic joked about simply because the person is uncomfortable about it, or doesn’t understand or agree with it.
This is a dangerous place to find yourself. Putting someone else down for your own amusement is far from pleasant, it is extremely hurtful.
As a Transgender woman, I am not immune from this. It is so easy to attack people that you will never meet, and it is not fun. I am constantly being attacked for who I am, and have even received death threats. I am not going to lie, sometimes it is overwhelming.
Lately I’ve noticed an increased number of “memes” (image, video, piece of text, etc. that is copied/shared and spreads rapidly via the internet) that involves a picture of someone that does not conform not “traditional” beauty standards. These images are hurtful. I know that several people on my own friends list will read this and roll their eyes. They will say that I’m either overreacting, or that people get their feelings hurt too easily.
I beg to differ, though. I think more people should be offended by things like this. Our society puts such a pressure on conforming and looking/behaving a certain way- way too much. Imagine then, if you already have such low self-esteem because you do not feel as though you fit in, and find out your image was used as a JOKE on the internet?
Cyberbullying does not limit itself to image alone. Many people in the LGBT community struggle with attacks and many minorities and people of color (poc) do as well.
It is easy to sit behind your computer, or your cellphone and type out hurtful words and threats when you don’t have to look that person in the eye.
4,400 people between the ages of 10 and 24 kill themselves each year because of bullying. This is both terrifying and PREVENTABLE.
Please think about your words and actions. They are not trivial, and can have a lasting affect on the people around you. Your harmless joke may be painful and hurtful towards someone else.
If you are a victim of cyberbullying, or threatened in any way please get help. I have included some links below. Reach out. You are not alone.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
CyberBully Hotline: 1-800-420-1479
The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386