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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Stop bullying.

At the end of my work day, when there are only a few minutes left until I can leave and I don’t want to stop in the middle of something, I read the news online. I don’t particularly like reading the news, because there’s rarely anything happy to be found there. A few days ago was a perfect example.

The first headline that jumped out at me was about a teenager who killed herself in front of her family. She was a senior in high school and had been bullied for her weight - cyberbullied. No one had nerve enough to harass her in person. Instead, these cowards who thought they were so much better than she sent text messages and created Facebook pages to bully her. She killed herself because of words said by faceless people. 

Seriously? 

The article told of how her family pleaded with her to not pull the trigger, and with them there to witness it, she shot herself in the chest.

I can’t get that mental image out of my head. It’s been haunting me for a couple of days now, mainly because it ties in with the reason I’ve been avoiding Facebook. I’m disgusted with the way so many people I consider friends are behaving lately. Mostly it has been political comments, but there are so many other comments that make me wonder if anyone really thinks about what they’re saying anymore, especially when it is being said behind the safety of a computer screen.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with social media from the beginning. People speak their minds, exercising their freedom of speech, without a thought as to how others will react. What to you might seem a completely acceptable thing to say can hurt or anger someone else. Words are THE most painful weapons, because they cut silently, deeply and without witness.

Reading about a young life lost because of the pain caused by words got me to thinking…have I ever been a cyberbully? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that yes, I have. We’ve all been bullies. Think about it…have you ever written a scathing review of a business on Yelp? Left negative feedback on eBay or Amazon that was maybe a little more harsh than it had to be? How many Facebook posts have you written about the stupidity of people who voted differently than you in the recent election? 

Would you have the nerve to say the exact same things face to face?

How many times have you left vague replies to a friend’s post, clearly implying you disagree or are judging that person? Have you ever got into a heated argument with a total stranger in the replies to a friend’s post? Did it make you feel superior to that person to tell them your truth?

That is an important part of all this by the way. Your truth. Not the truth, even though that might be what you have convinced yourself. Everyone has their own truth. 

Example: I am not a Christian. I do not believe in the Bible, Jesus, God. None of it. So when you post things like, “Thanks be to God” over the fact that your child survived his/her cancer, do you stop to think how those of us whose children didn’t survive might feel? God chose to save your child, but chose to let mine die? Is that the message? If so, this god is a huge asshole. That is my truth. 

Another religious comment that seems innocent is, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” What you should be saying is, “Jesus is the reason for your season,” because he is not the reason for mine. The things that I celebrate this time of year have nothing to do with Christianity. They have to do with my truths.

Those are fairly innocuous examples. They anger me, but they don’t harm me. I’m not insulted by them; merely disgusted with their presumptuousness. Recently though, the comments on politics have reached the point of (what I consider to be) cyberbullying. When you lambaste an entire group of people because they voted differently than you, calling them names or saying they’re all ignorant, uneducated…stupid, does it occur to you that not everyone who will see it agrees with you? Does it occur to you that you are criticizing people you supposedly consider “friends”? Do you care?

We speak without thought or tact, because we don’t have to see the reaction of others to our words. That is bullying. If you only feel better about yourself when you’re bringing someone down, you are a bully. I grew up with someone like that and it took nearly 50 years before I was able to say, “No more!” and cut that person from my life. Lives are being lost because words are being said without care. 

I had no choice but to watch my son die. He wanted to live - more than anything, he wanted to live! Yet I still had to helplessly watch him die. The parents of this young girl also had to helplessly watch their child die, but it didn’t have to be that way! We need to stop spewing hate and judgement. We need to be spreading acceptance, tolerance and love. We especially need to be teaching our children to do the same.

A bullet to the chest, as she cried about not being able to deal with it all anymore. How is this the world we live in now? How? Because we are creating that world with ever word we wield. How dare we use those weapons so carelessly?

I love seeing posts about your child’s baseball team winning, new jobs, kids in Halloween costumes, couples in ugly sweaters…I want to be there to cheer you on as you fight tough life battles. I cry with you when you suffer a loss. I don’t want to be there when you post something vague, seeking attention without explanation. I don’t want to “like” a post where you are criticizing an entire group of people all because you don’t agree with them. I don’t want to help you feel better about yourself by bringing someone else down.

Social media should be fun.