Life

Play Nice

bcpsbullyToday, at my younger son’s school, they’re having their 1st Annual Anti-Bullying Day.  The kids will wear a certain color shirt and there is likely going to be an assembly. Maybe even other activities, depending upon the school.

Why do we have to have these days?  Well, there are a lot of reasons. One reason that I want to focus on, though, doesn’t happen at school. It happens online.

“Back in MY day…” 

Before the present age of instant, public broadcasting, people communicated privately and vented their spleen without a wide audience. Sure, emails were forwarded and swapped and so on, but the instant titillation was lessened.

And before THAT, back when people engaged in social attacks in person, things were very different.  Once upon a time, when someone went after someone else, they did it in person. To their face (or behind their backs) with the full knowledge that they had to look that other person in the eye eventually. That others who knew them and knew where they lived and/or worked.  That this was not something done privately, in truth, but publicly. It didn’t stop some bullies, of course, but social pressure is a huge factor in how folks interact.

It’s a Tool

The advent of instantaneous communication has brought all kinds of opportunities.  Like any good tool, it was developed for productive purposes. But because people are human, tools are sometimes misused to the detriment of others.

With online communication and social networking, this is also true, though the tools are largely “virtual” in nature.  People can share their thoughts without sharing their true faces.  They can communicate things they feel need saying without fear of consequences affecting their personal lives.  If someone is hurting and alone, they can find help and support in a social network that doesn’t threaten them or leave them open to further pain in real life.  Young people with mature voices can be heard without prejudice against their age.

People get to know one another on the basis of their communication, not their body type or skin color.  It can be a great equalizer, this tool.

Playing “Mean”

But sometimes, having an online identity behind which one can hide brings out the worst in people. They feel they have a freedom to act in ways they would never, ever act in person around people whose eyes meet theirs in hallways or playing fields. They unleash something that isn’t allowed to appear in their offline life.

So what is meant for good is sometimes used in a mean way.  And because we all tend to slow down as we drive and look at the scene of an accident, online instigators who “play mean” get an audience.  Some of whom are secretly of the furtive bully persuasion.

And people using a virtual social space create actual pain.  And it’s almost always done without consequences.  Because they don’t have to look their victim in the eye – they can go about their life without facing the results of their words and deeds.

Play Nice

It’s not hard to play nice.  I see this Anti-Bullying event and it makes me kinda sad. Because really? It shouldn’t be about being “anti” anything. Instead, we should remember just a few simple things when we interact with one another.

  • Never say anything online you wouldn’t say to someone’s face with a clear conscience in the presence of your children or your parents or someone whose respect you desire.
  • Remember that once spoken or written, words will cause pain long after they’re posted or sent.
  • Treat others, always, as you would wish to be treated.  Use words and attitudes you would welcome being used to you.

It’s not hard. Just play nice.

7 replies »

  1. This is a great post, Sandi! It always gives me a sick feeling when I witness people online being mean or, worse, hear in the news about someone who was driven to suicide or violence because of it.

    Unfortunately, there are people who thrive off keeping others down. It makes them feel better about themselves, and that is often because THEY come from a place of abuse or lack of support. Bullying reminds me a lot of domestic abuse–in fact, I’ll bet a lot of bullies go on to become abusers. As someone with personal experience in an abusive relationship (thankfully long past), certain things I see and hear really break my heart. Bullies and abusers are usually shaped by early situations, and it’s an ugly legacy that often continues on and on.

    It is sad that there are assemblies dedicated to bullying, but maybe they can catch some of these situations early on and halt a cycle. Even if they get one out of a crowd, it might save someone’s life.

    • Hey, Sarah ~

      Oh I do hear you, yes. People reach out to hurt others because they feel that is the only way they can feel better about themselves. What I find deplorable are those who choose to participate just because everyone else is. The people who could choose to play nice, you know? I mean, we ALL can choose that (as you yourself can vouch, coming from a bad situation doesn’t mean you have to engage in this behavior) but it’s especially angering (to me) when it’s just because it’s the thing to do.

      I do hope that the activities happening in my son’s school and elsewhere will help someone get a clue and start thinking more positively about their peers.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. I agree. I remember a time when I grew up witnessing all kinds of bullying happen in the schoolyard. I hated it because I didn’t like what it did to the kid being bullied. I had to step in a few times, but other times, there were just too many and I couldn’t do a thing about it. It was a terrible situation.

    Like you said, though, nowadays there are way too many opportunities to bully someone online. It’s disgusting what I’ve seen in the comment areas of some of my friends.

    The best rule-of-thumb I go with I learned in the movie Bambi: “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.” This statement has served me well throughout the years.

    • Ah, Thumper’s family taught him well. 🙂 If we all did the same with our children, bullying would fade a great deal, I think.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. I have said the same thing so many times – It’s not hard to play nice! I love your three “rules”. I’ve always felt the Golden Rule of treating others how you wish to be treated is the most important thing we can do for one another.
    That being said, it can be easy to get wrapped up into heated arguments online, so it’s always good to try and take a step back and remember these things before voicing your own opinion. In my opinion anyway 🙂

    • Bells! 🙂

      The Golden Rule is my standard. At least, I try to keep it such. I feel it’s fair and utterly comprehensible.

      You are a darling and I appreciate how you handle everyone. 🙂