Are you a bully?

bullyI was listening to the radio while working out on Friday and the guest was a member of the Harlem Globetrotters.  He was discussing a program they were running against bullying.  As I listened, I was so fascinated I decided to post a blog on the subject.

“Back in my day”, bullying was pretty much the classic concept…a bigger kid (or kids) picking on a smaller one.  Maybe it was relegated to name calling and making “fun” (a poor description, indeed), but there was also the physical effect.

Generally, the offender(s) could be punished by the school.  Of course, that might just get you bullied even more, later, but there was at least some measure of justice.

What was fascinating about the conversation on the radio was the subtle way the nature of bullying has changed in today’s electronic world.  In fact, many of us may be engaged in bullying and not even recognize it.

One of the more eye-opening comments made was related to social media and the proliferation with negative posts and the ensuing “piling on”.  The suggestion was that people don’t realize they are de facto bullies when they add negative or hurtful comments on other people’s posts.  The excuse “I didn’t post the thing, I just commented” is no different from “I didn’t start picking on him, I just joined in”.  And in many posters minds, they simply don’t see a problem with their negativity (or flat-out meanness).

I have come across this so often, I begin to fear reading comment sections on news stories (where the posters often spend more time insulting each other than commenting on the story) or Facebook posts (where foul language and rude comments take the place of actual discussion).  That people don’t notice this is disturbing.  That people might not care is frightening.

I play an online game through Facebook based upon people “killing” each other to gain experience.  It’s a diversion and mostly boring, but the people in the group I’ve joined are interesting and entertaining to talk with.  Except…sometimes a rival group “attacks” them in the game; this is considered normal.  What is not normal is that the “trash talk” escalates into genuine viciousness, extending into their personal behavior.  From a game.  A game they all presumably play for enjoyment.

The loss of perspective is consistent with the behavior of people across the World Wide Wrath, where the most common theme seems to be expiating all the frustration one has with the world (in general) and their lives (in particular) through nasty or mean comments, often directed at or intended to hurt others.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me?  Not in today’s world.  We need to be careful, lest technology make bullies of us all.

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