Facebook—it is the social media network that has virtually taken over the world; never have more people flocked together with the open desire to share every moment, every thought with their hundreds, or even thousands, of “friends”. Journalists sit in wonder as they ponder how to use this social networking site to their advantage; college students use it to stay in touch, or even just snoop, on those high school acquaintances they’re not quite ready to let loose, and, most unfortunately, people of all ages from all places view and use the site as their own personal weapon—one capable of tearing anyone down at any one time in the easiest of manners.
As of the current moment, I am hesitant to pour too much of myself, and my own experiences, into the virtual pages of this blog, but I will say that I have been the victim of bullying in numerous situations, some of which arose on Facebook, of all places. And I often wondered why… well, for all those out there who are wondering the same thing, the answer is simple. It’s easy to be a bully on Facebook. Think about it. A bully usually lashes out, because he/she is insecure due to something going on in his/her own life; and this is not just my hypothesis. Numerous articles on the matter confirm this fact (this is one that outlines it fairly simplistically: http://library.thinkquest.org/07aug/00117/whybully.html). And a bully on Facebook does not have to directly confront his/her suspect; they can write horrible, degrading, disrespectful, downright false accusations all in a private message to the person on his/her Facebook page without ever having to look the victim in the eye; the really brazen bullies can even post something on the victim’s wall. But—believe me when I say this—a bully is only brave enough to post something disrespectful on your wall if he/she has a slew of mind-numbing followers willing to support the bully in his/her childish vendettas and mind games.
But, there’s one thing that these bullies often don’t realize. Yes, the Internet has literally opened doors and established interconnections across multiple facets in which people can feel free to communicate and network, but the Internet has also forced these cowards conducting cyber bullying to put everything that they say to their victims in clear black-and-white… in print. Please, realize that you have rights. These bullies have just given you a terrific advantage, though it may not seem like it at the moment. Copy and paste what they say to you into a Word document and save it. And then show it to people. Show it to your parents, show it to a teacher, show it to someone in a position of authority, and let them help you.
But, please, no matter how difficult it may seem when you are being attacked, do not respond to the bully’s childish antics with words of anger or hopes of retaliation. When I was younger, my mom would always tell me that bullies would never know how to respond if I just refused to play into their games; I hated this advice. I was being attacked! I wanted to lash out right back at them! I wanted to cry, to scream, to do anything but stay silent. But if you respond, if you play into their vicious word games, now you too are in print saying things that you would not want an adult, authoritative figure, or anyone who looks up to you, to read. Facebook is the weapon of choice for cowards. But you are not a coward. If someone types something disrespectful to you on Facebook, copy, save and show. Someone out there can help you.
Or… just delete the person! You never need to let just anyone have access to your personal page. Though it seems hard to believe with all that Facebook now has to offer, your life is your business. And you have a right to privacy.
Now a Junior at New York University, I mostly try to use my Facebook for networking with prospective business clients, and I am constantly attempting to narrow down my “friends” list to only my real and true friends. Even at my age, I am still the victim of cyber bullying from time-to-time; I wish I could say I wasn’t, and it gets better with age. But, recently, I have come to a startling realization, one that seems obvious, but was, for me, very hard to grasp at first: Facebook does not define an individual. The site is only as powerful as you make it. Just because a person is a “friend” on your Facebook account does not give them the right to scrutinize and study every aspect of your life and compile a nice, little message in which he/she then proceeds to tell you everything that is wrong with you, or wrong with what you are doing, or wrong with what you aren’t doing. Please don’t let these cyber bullies feel empowered. They are cowards and only as powerful as they allow themselves to feel when they sit back, smirking, as they type what they think is an antagonizing message that will ruin your whole evening once you get that little red notification symbol.
And I have just one more piece of advice to give on this matter: As a last resort, you can always delete your Facebook account, but do not feel that you have to delete your account to hide out from these bullies. You have just as much a right to use the social networking site as that bully does, but if you do decide that deleting it is the way to go, then just do it! Facebook is not life; it’s just a new means in which one can share one’s life with others.
You are strong, you are powerful, and you are so much more courageous than any cyber bully out there.