Tag Archives: bullying

Wired Act

The other day a tweet arrived asking followers how they cope with the stress of a wired world.  I believe that the word “stress” was suggesting negativity in this instance.  My reply suggested that my wires are not my strings.  I find my wired (or more accurately; my “wireless”) world to be quite liberating.  I can control my communications and information far more than I ever did or could in the past.

In olden times, if one wanted to exchange information or pleasantries with a friend (in real time) one had to place or receive a call while both people were at home and near a phone (phones were often stationary devices.)  Calls often went on for extended periods of time as call waiting was yet to be invented.  One could romanticize this phenomenon or point out how it eroded actual social experiences and rendered relationships to nothing more than disembodied voices squawking at each other.  The telephone heralded the end of social calls and meaningful discourse.  It was the Facebook of its time.

No doubt, print and newspapers heralded the end of the town square and civic discourse.  Fine.  Progress is change, and change is uncomfortable.  Do I bristle at having to learn yet another platform or version of what was working perfectly fine thank you very much?  Of course.  But suggesting that having more access to information and people is stressful?  Well, that’s just irritating.  We aren’t fitted with some sort of Woody Allen Sleeper helmet (yet.)  If it’s all too overwhelming, turn it off.  But to suggest that our (current) advances in technology are anything beside access to information or communication is just silly.  There is nothing to demonize here.  Facebook didn’t create bullies, nature created bullies.  Technology did not erode teenagers morality or their sense of self.  It just broadcasts it.

Are there one (or two) generations who have a radically different attention span than their elders?  Most definitely.  Imagine what the attention span was of a generation raised on horse and buggies?  Personally, I’m more concerned about a generation who ends every sentence with a question mark.

I credit the (current) state of technology with the connectivity I now enjoy with extended family.  Elementary school friends, I assumed I would never again see, are back in my orbit.  It is a very satisfying feeling this sense of the continuity of life.  In fact, it is the opposite of alienating.  Technology quenches my thirst for research (and by “research” I mostly mean; “where do I know that actor from?”)  While they will have to wrestle my actual newspaper from my cold (deceptively strong) hands, I love that I don’t have to wait until morning to know what is happening.  The curated news streaming on my twitter feed was once only available to diplomats and really wealthy people.

All of the (literal) bells and whistles are muted on my devices.  They exist to serve me.  They allow me to feel connected to the world.  And the torch wielding villagers are not going to convince me otherwise.

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Posted by on January 7, 2012 in Media/Marketing


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A Bully Plan

There is nothing good to say about bullying.  The very definition (picking on those weaker) is anathema to humanitarianism.  Exposing bad behavior is almost always a good thing.  However there is a fine line between discussing an issue responsibly and throwing a buzz word (in this case “bullying”) over everything.

Tossing buzz words around is irresponsible.  We saw this happen with the word “stress” about a decade or more ago.  Stress became synonymous with anxiety and is now only deemed as negative.  “I’m stressing” became an actual expression.  Between us, there is nothing negative about stress.  Positive excitement is stressful to the body and mind as well.  Is bullying ever good?  Certainly not to my mind.  But suggesting that an adolescent girl killed herself because of bullying…on Facebook, is absurd.  It diminishes her troubles and pain (whatever their genesis) and demonizes the abstract.  Suggesting that she was a victim of her computer and that her screen drove her to death is a wretched portrait to paint of a troubled teenager.  In fact, suggesting that anyone was driven to end their life due to bullying smacks of complacency.

No doubt, as adults we may not remember the turmoil of adolescence.  Everything was Very Important and permanent and fraught with drama.  Rarely were we our best selves.  Our identities only existed as they were reflected back to us by our cohort.  What an awful time it was.  Adolescents (particularly girls in the middle school years) can be pretty nasty as they claw their way to relevance. When we layer this anthropological phenomenon with the current social climate, things can get dire.

Most of us did not grow up in an age of digital cameras and instant (permanent) exposure.  We probably did not grow up in a world of celebrity (for no apparent reason) suggesting we should all live in the spotlight, behave badly, always be styled and airbrushed and party like it’s…you get the idea.  We probably didn’t grow up during a time when college was seen as a given, and the only path to income, yet was academically and financially unattainable to many.  Many of us did not grew up with parents simulating aircraft above our heads.  We were independent-ish and expected to manage our own social and even academic world.  (Note: personal responsibility is the key ingredient for self-esteem.)

Adolescence+increased external pressure+diminished internal resources can add up to a troubled teen.  Luckily, their world is populated by adults.  Teachers, nurses, administrators, coaches and guidance counselors see the good, the bad and the ugly.  Parents are in the best position to see the unhappiness in their child.  Many do and struggle with how best to care for their child.  Depression, either clinical or non-clinical sadness, is frightening in a population known for their lack of impulse control.  A teenager who has lost interest in pleasurable activities, and/or has changed his/her sleeping/eating patterns should be seen as in crisis.

Bullying can most certainly push a vulnerable teenager over the edge.  So can a bad grade or a romantic break-up.  However, when the media hauls out bullying experts our limited attention shifts to the external.  It is the at-risk adolescent that warrants the attention, not the behavior of others.  A healthy and supported teenager will not log on to Facebook if it brings unhappiness.  A healthy and supported adolescent, no matter how quirky, will not be driven to self-harm by the comments of others.  Bullying will always exist, empires were built on it.  Where we need to focus is on those adolescents who need support.

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Posted by on January 4, 2012 in Childhood, Media/Marketing


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The White Hood Of The Web

There have always been people crouching behind barriers and throwing stones.  In an actual battle, this strategy is in fact prudent.  But when the stones are being thrown at unwilling participants it is abusive, and when the abuser is shielding him/herself it is bullying.  (Bullying is by definition an abuser preying on a weaker person.  Hiding offers protection, exposure leaves one weaker.)

Since the dawn of time, or since there were enough people on the planet to adequately ostracize some of them; people have bullied other people.  Often groups decide that someone, or groups of someones are a threat to the status quo.  The group itself gives rise to an enthusiasm and sense of protection for the abusers.  Persecution of women in Salem, backlashes to integration and voting rights, gay bashing; we have a rich national history of bullying,  And it’s getting worse.

We are in a time of economic uncertainty, political polarization, political correctness pressure and the internet.  People have not become more or less decent, they just may feel more threatened.  Nothing gets the bully’s goat like threat.  But what brings the simmering increase of abuse to the boiling point is the rise of technology.  Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and countless website comment sections, have allowed for a new form of white hood.  There is a vile cocktail of exhibitionism and hatred that litters the comment sections of legitimate news outlets.  For some reason web editors and/or executives are allowing their brand to be a platform for hate groups.  These posters use tragically uncreative screen names to hide behind, while rabidly posting.  The unsuspecting reader is affronted with spewing from people calling themselves by war criminal’s names.

I am willing to concede, that just like wildly offensive television programming, the viewer can avoid the offensive material pretty easily.  But I am concerned about the news outlets sense of responsibility and integrity.  Offensive and abusive comments on Facebook and Twitter can easily be blocked and ignored as well.  Even bloggers can block nasty commenters with ugly agendas.  But where does this leave us?

The fact that we can protect ourselves from these high tech hooded thugs, doesn’t address the real issue.  Why are we allowing people to hide in plain sight.  Newspapers have long made it de rigueur to only publish letters from individuals with confirmed identities.  Make no mistake, I am not advocating restraints on free speech.  Far from it.  But surely we have the technology to expose these people?  The rest of us non-software engineers, should ignore the comments (versus engaging) and not patronize sites whose management allows for this behavior.  People are entitled to be as dark and hateful as they desire, but civilized societies should not allow for them to do so in disguise.

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Posted by on November 16, 2011 in Cultural Critique, Media/Marketing


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Because I Said So, That’s Why

There is now legislation (in New Jersey) to combat bullying.  In schools.

I know, I too would be ready to cheer from the rooftops if we, as a people, had decreed that picking on persons or groups perceived as weaker than one’s own is an abomination.  What a world, what a world.

But no, the legislation I reference is only about schoolchildren.  There is nothing magical in the legislation.  It is exactly the kind of rules, forms, standards and bureaucracy one would expect.  There will be training for personnel, awareness campaigns, et cetera.  I am less interested in the minutia of legalizing common sense than looking down the road that led us to this point.

Why is bullying such an issue today?  (I am making the leap that bullying is in fact an “issue” as why else would people need to legislate?)  I think we can all agree that not much has changed about the physiological development of children over the past, say, 50 years?  Children have not turned into little Rambo like creatures fortified by steroid rich lunchables.  If anything, national childhood obesity rates would suggest that children have become less physically threatening in recent years (we are not including the threat of sitting on someone smaller than oneself.)  It is safe to assume that any change, on the part of the children, is psychological/emotional.

There is a traditional dichotomy that has been continuously eroding over past recent years: grown-ups were in charge, and all children were not gifted.

No doubt we all agree that children are not little adults.  They are not mentally or physically equipped to be mini-adults.  In fact, that is why parents were invented.  Minimally, parents help guide young minds in impulse control, decision making and the like.  Good parents help children grow into responsible and compassionate adults.

The child factor in this equation is far more troubling to me.  Passive or narcissistic parenting can be changed or augmented with positive interactions with aunts, uncles, teachers and the like.  But teaching a child that they are the center of the universe is cruel.  Not only does this perspective do nothing to help a child learn the skills necessary to be a functioning adult, it is just mean.  It is false advertising, plain and simple.  Not only is it not possible for any person to actually be the center of the universe, but what do you think will happen when he/she inevitably discovers the truth?  Is there any wonder that mental health services are at their breaking point in colleges and universities across the nation?

When we have to legislate adults to intervene when they see children misbehaving, we have a problem.  When did it get so scary for adults to embrace their own (innate) authority?  When did we decide that raising emotional terrorists is good parenting?  When exactly did we decide that the most ill-equipped of our society are in charge?  Legislating in loco parentis in the schools?  This is only the tip of the iceberg.

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Posted by on August 31, 2011 in Childhood


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