Opinion | Virtual bullying has real world consequences
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 22:02
“You can’t sit with us!”
If you are like most people you probably recognize that line from the 2004 movie Mean Girls. The film is well known and often quoted online and in daily life. The movie was marketed as a comedy, but recently there have been some disturbing trends that point to it coming across like a documentary.
One of the more ridiculous scenes in Mean Girls is the school wide brawl that ensues after Regina distributes copies of the burn book. Perhaps one of the reasons that we laugh at that moment is because now, all the fighting happens online. The idea of a face-to-face confrontation is offputting to most, which is why more and more people, women in particular, have taken their bullying into cyberspace.
In a study by HealthDay News, 15 percent of college students said they were bullied while at college, 22 percent reported being cyberbullied, and 38 percent know someone who has experienced cyberbullying. Unlike the popular television show Pretty Little Liars, not a lot of the bullying occurs via text, but most cyberbullying occurs on social networking sites.
Does the word “subtweeting’’ mean anything to you? If you have a Twitter account, the answer is probably yes. If you aren’t familiar with Twitter, subtweeting is when someone tweets about another person without actually mentioning their username and connecting them to the tweet. Basically, it is the virtual version of talking about someone behind his or her back. It’s gotten harder and harder to scroll down a Twitter feed without finding rude subtweets. This passive aggressive phenomenon is an almost entirely female occurrence and an immensely destructive one at that.
The problem with subtweeting is that there is no way for the person the tweet is about to prove that it was actually about them. The easiest response to receiving a subtweet is to subtweet them back. However, even if you try to be the mature person and confront them about it face to face, unless they own up to it, you can’t actually talk about the problem. This creates an issue because though in theory, it is easy to simply unfollow a person on Twitter or unfriend them on Facebook, if someone is going to be saying bad things about you, it’s human nature to want to at least know what they are saying.
Is subtweeting really a form of bullying though? Most people would say that it is. Almost all subtweets are negative, and, women especially, want to know if other people are saying negative things about them, which can be profoundly upsetting. According to a new study cited in the Huffington Post, about 15,000 bullying-related tweets are posted every day, meaning more than 100,000 nasty messages taint the digital world each week.
Cyberbullying is not just regulated to Twitter though. Does the status: “Had such a bad day. I guess I really found out who my friends are,’’ look familiar? Most of us can probably also say that we have seen something like this on Facebook. Usually this kind of status is met with one of three responses.
It is ignored by the person it is about.
The person it’s about posts a similar status vaguely defending their position.
The person it’s about comments on the status and the two (or more) people involved either talk about the problem or get into a fight.
While this may seem like a harmless way to vent without making a big deal out of an issue, it doesn’t really accomplish anything.
It is still cyberbullying even if you don’t directly mention the person you are talking about. Most people can remember being told by their mothers not to say anything online that they wouldn’t say to someone’s face. It is unclear when people start to disregard that advice, but instances of cyber bullying have been rising steadily over the last decade.
Right now, the most productive thing any student can do is to simply rise above it. It can be hard to ignore things that are directed at you, but retaliating won’t make the situation any better.
If it is possible, confront the person. If you are someone who subtweets others, make a real effort to stop.
It is probably the most pointless way to approach a conflict, because you are effectively cutting off any real avenues of communication between you and the person you have a problem with. If we want to end the mean girls movement, then we have to start somewhere.