Our society actively and vigorously condemns the cowardly act of bullying and is working toward its elimination in the lives of both children and adults. That is admirable, but all the while people are seduced by and betrayed by the greatest tool for bullying ever conceived. That insidious tool is none other than social media. Yes, that addictive wonderland that almost everyone carries in their pocket.
I know there will be people who will instantly rush to defend social media by saying that only a few misuse this electronic wonder. Sadly enough, those few grubs who do misuse it can be compared to the errant fecal dropping found in the swimming pool. Who is brave enough or foolish enough to swim in that visibly contaminated medium?
The electronic anonymity granted to those pieces of garbage allows them to make the most hideous statements and accusations against their helpless and defenseless victims, and they suffer no retribution. Unfortunately, these slams and slurs seem to be taken as gospel by far too many of the users of the media. A child who is disliked by another and is bullied so horribly could end up attempting to take their own life. All because of some imagined slight or petty jealousy.
A public figure who did not grant a permit or favor is falsely accused of mishandling of funds or improper touching and is hounded out of office, with no means of defense against the false charges.
Any statement, charge or allegation is instantly available for viewing and sharing and resharing (going viral) the minute it is posted to the various media. It cannot be retracted or withdrawn. It is out there as though it is carved in granite. A mention of a supposed grievance, or a call to action by one of the denizens of this electronic sewer, is taken as gospel by hordes of intellectually limited folks and riots break out. An electronic alarm can go out to millions of watchers, claiming a person has been unfairly treated or abused by authorities and within hours a great horde of protesters and demonstrators will be clogging the streets and destroying property, whether or not there was any validity to the original statement.
When I rail against the horrific abuses social media make possible, my comments are greeted with derision and denials. People say “I only use it to stay in touch with my grandchildren, or “I only use it because I get so lonely,” or “I like to hear from distant friends.” But then, in later conversation, comes, “Did you see what that lowlife said about so and so?” and is usually followed by statements such as “I fixed his butt. I posted that he was a shoplifter and a chicken thief. That’ll fix him!”
People who are otherwise good folk will engage in this sort of thing and not give thought to the fact that, in their seemingly innocent action, they have just dived into the same cesspool in which their antagonist enjoys swimming.
While I have to admit social media is a marvelous tool, if used responsibly, it is no less horrible when abused than the knife wielded by a thug in a robbery, or a poison planted in a drinking fountain by a deranged person, or a match in the hands of an arsonist.
One of the sadder aspects of electronic bullying is so many of today’s young people seem to actually want to live in that phantom world of electrons rather than existing in this real, tangible, palpable world. Because their relationships are the product of countless electrons, they feel safer immersing themselves in that imaginary world because they feel insulated from reality. They take comfort in that false aura of security until the bullies, trolls or electronic vampires strike. Then they are suddenly unable to defend themselves in an arena where they have always felt safe and secure.
The shock they feel is much akin to their having just stepped off the edge of a 10-story building. They have no means of defense and no frame of reference to even determine what has just happened to them. Their whole electronic world that has nurtured them and comforted them has, in an instant, just betrayed them, and they have no idea where to turn for help or just who they might call on as a defender.
This oh-so-wonderful fantasy world where so many people choose to live is rife with pitfalls because the sub-human animals who hide in its shadowy corners are totally hidden and sheltered by the electronic anonymity provided by the structure of social media. A parallel that comes to mind is promising a child a big ice cream if they walk, unaware, through a dark room populated with poisonous snakes. That innocent child knows no better until the moment reality strikes, then it is too late to undo the damage.
Unfortunately, peer pressure and the social demand to conform pressures many people, both young and old, to follow that treacherous path. People who have been traumatized by the ghouls in the world of social media can be found all around us. They can be the school teacher who gave an unacceptable grade, or they might be 12-year-old girl who has been ostracized by her classmates because she is of a different faith. The victim may be totally innocent of any slight or offense, but the damage is done. The filth and vituperation stain a person permanently, like indelible ink on a white carpet.
The only relief or defense against suffering the pain and humiliation of those sneak attacks is to swim in cleaner waters, walk in a better neighborhood, or begin to associate with real world, flesh and blood friends who you actually know and avoid running with a crowd of electronic phantoms.
The choice is yours.
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