Over The Cyber Wall

A couple of days ago I came across the Facebook page memorializing Amanda Todd, the Canadian teenager who committed suicide last week from enduring a living hell of online bullying and harassment.I wept for her and her loved ones, the way I have wept for so many other stories like this. It always hits close to home, given my own experiences relating to the subject. But when I began hearing about the malicious messages that were being posted about her through that page, I began to question the concept of its creation, and how this all seems to be going around in one gigantic, vicious circle.

Her death was tragic, and a situation like this should not be taken lightly. Amanda Dodd deserves to be remembered and mourned.  At the same time, I too, find myself asking why certain people are glorified or are given attention on this subject, and others are not. A vast number of people kill themselves every single day due to some form of bullying, whether it be online or off. Why aren’t they specifically mentioned, as opposed to be lumped in to a group of statistics?

The other thing that puzzles me is the effectiveness of “liking” something on Facebook, particularly if it is a cause or some kind of outreach. It’s not just bullying; it’s the “like this [photo] so that this poor dog doesn’t get put to sleep” stuff. It’s “Like this picture to show that you care for kids with cancer.” What good does that do, exactly?

I understand the intentions behind things like that, particularly when someone takes their own life due to senseless cruelty. You want to make sure that their death is not in vain. You want to spread awareness and make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again. But just because you post something on the internet doesn’t mean that people become automatically informed, nor does it mean that they will care. In this specific case, it appears that cyber-bullying is more or less being enforced or inflamed; from what I’ve read, more people are posting messages that Amanda “deserved” what she got, given the circumstances preceding what happened, and a whole lot worse. It’s an awful cycle that has been going and going; at this point, Facebook can do very little to contain it.

Meanwhile, adults have gone about the usual tactics of pointing fingers and blaming people or social media. This is something I tend to slap my forehead over;  because every time our country is dealt with some kind of tragedy, whether it be a mass murder, bullying/suicide, etc. all we do is cry foul, and nothing else. Sure, Facebook and Twitter, parents, peers, and a whole list of other stuff plays a role in such events. But is it really possible to pinpoint one or two as the sole cause? 

It seems like the underbelly of all of this is hatred; pure, unrelenting, blinding, hatred. All other things help a person or group of people feed on that hatred, but that in itself is ultimately where it starts. 

But hatred, bullying, and the like are not limited to students. It happens everywhere, with everyone. Politicians can be bullies. Business owners and leaders can be bullies. Parents/husbands/wives can be bullies. Even pastors and church congregations can be bullies. It all starts to when we fail to recognize those around us as human beings. What’s worse is when we ignore their human dignity. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of gray areas in these things, which I’m saving for another time. But instead of focusing energy on removing one thing or adding something else, why not make an effort to actually sit down and talk to each other?  And if you don’t agree with or understand something, ask that person why that idea is important to them. There’s a chance that it might be more effective, rather than becoming dependent on technology or the justice system to do all the work. 

I’m not against creating a page or a website, for whomever or whatever. But “liking” or “following” something/a person can only do so much. What I mean is, people should be doing more than just getting involved on the internet. Get off your butt and act. Volunteer for an organization relating to that particular cause. Speak out whenever you see someone being treated disrespectfully. Smile and say hello to your school mates, peers, coworkers, etc. In fact, why not invite them out to lunch or coffee and get to know them? 

I have to be honest, I can’t say that there is a concrete solution to stopping or preventing any wrongdoing against humanity. But we’ll never know unless we turn off our computer screens and make an effort to try. 

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