Computers have revolutionized the way people do just about everything: share information, date, shop, masturbate — even the way we insult and make threats to people. Today, threatening and insulting people through e-mails, texts, social networks and online forums — also known as “cyberbullying” — has become so common that some outsiders are being forced to take notice.
It’s a nationwide problem that has made its presence known here in Madison. Luis Yudice, the safety coordinator for the Madison Metropolitan School District, commented in The Capital Times that, at the middle school level, it was not uncommon for students, especially 12- to 13-year-old girls, to spread malicious rumors about other students through digital media. The issue has even given rise to a website, Stopcyberbullying.org, which is committed to protecting kids from the dangers of cyberbullying.
Parry Aftab, the administrator of Stopcyberbullying.org and the founder and executive director of WiredSafety, a nonprofit organization determined to prevent cyberbullying, said cyberbullying occurs among children, preteens and teenagers. In my experience, this problem transcends all age groups.
To witness the extent of cyberbullying at the college level first hand, one won’t have to look any further than the comments posted about this very article online at Badgerherald.com. I have only been on The Badger Herald writing staff for six weeks but I have already gained a reputation that makes my mother embarrassed to be seen with me around campus. Here are some past favorites, all of them poetry:
“You bring shame to the University of Wisconsin, a center of activism and political thought. You can’t sift and winnow from your couch, asshole. People like you make me so angry. You are the reason the rest of the world thinks of Americans as stupid, entitled, and self-centered. Go ahead and waste your life away, I hope you’re proud of what you accomplish. Shame on you for this article.” — Anonymous
“You sound like a true douche.” — Anonymous
“I hope you burn in hell!” — Grandma Carter
“Embrace your mediocrity and enjoy your meaningless life.” — Anonymous
These are examples of cyberbullying. And, as is common with cyberbullying, these insults and threats were made by faceless perpetrators. In The Capital Times, Yudice stated, “For some bullies, it’s much easier to write something or make a comment when you don’t have to face the victim.” You don’t say?
I was always taught the best way to rid yourself of a bully, cyber or otherwise, is to fight back. So, allow me to retort:
This eagerness to contribute your opinion or your sense of righteousness to the world is understandable, but when you grossly misinterpret, misspeak or wrongfully accuse someone, you just come off sounding like an idiot. I urge those of you that enjoy the forums provided on The Badger Herald’s website to read beyond the title and first two sentences before making a comment. I urge all organizations willing to assault someone in the name of equality to research who it is you are targeting before you set out to do so. The next time you feel the impulse to speak out, take a breath, collect your thoughts, and rethink the situation to be sure you understand what the hell it is you’re talking about.
For all others, be aware. In the future, you too may find yourself to be the victim of cyberbullying, if you haven’t been already. It could manifest itself as a threatening text sent from an anonymous person, an e-mail, a widespread rumor initiated with the use of digital media, moronic insults posted on an online forum or as an old image posted online of yourself in Tijuana during spring break of 2007 doing something with a pineapple and a donkey that you were promised would never be shown to anyone.
We are all susceptible to it, regardless of age. The perpetrators may never be found but that doesn’t mean you should take it lying down. If confronted, you should stand up for yourself, for you are the victim of a cowardly act.
David Carter (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior majoring in forestry.