Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

Henry: Internet enabling a new generation of bullies

Posted on April 16, 2012 in Henry's Head, Perspectives
By Andrew Henry

Andrew Henry
Andrew Henry

There is nothing in this world that pisses me off more than trolling, bullying or the general lack of decency in conversation both online or in person.

I can’t stand people who make comments about other people with the sole intention of making them feel bad. Trolling has become a recent phenomenon with the boom of Facebook and the blogosphere, but it’s just another form of something that has been around forever: bullying. And I’ve got a bone to pick with bullies.

This irritation come from a long-standing vendetta I have against any form of bullying. What I’m about to tell you is not a sob story or an attempt to get your sympathy, but rather to make a point. I was a victim of bullying. I was picked on all throughout middle school, mainly by one person in particular (although his friends would occasionally join in).

I had unmedicated attention deficit disorder, which caused me to be hyper and annoying (in olden times, this would have been referred to as “being of middle school age”), and this behavior was the target of their jokes. I always wanted to say something back to them, but I never found the courage to stand up. It got so bad that I had to take medication for depression caused by this harassment.

Now that I’ve found a writing voice, I can talk about it in the way I wanted to. Just to put things in perspective, the guy who bullied me is tripped out on Robitussin and town-hopping across Maine alone in the backseat of police cars. I have a wonderful girlfriend and am on my way to becoming a high school English teacher.

Here’s what I have to say: Cut the crap, bullies. Nobody thinks you’re funny. I don’t care whether it’s a severe inferiority complex or the safety behind a computer screen, but your torment is churlish, juvenile and harmful in ways you haven’t bothered to comprehend.

What’s your goal? To make someone feel awful about themselves just because? Remind me again why that’s a good thing. Way to go, you caused someone to feel insecure than they already may have been.
It’s all really funny until someone takes your “jokes” too seriously.

Bullying leads to serious ramifications that reach far beyond your intended target. The person being picked on could (and often does) develop a potentially crippling sense of insecurity or depression,, and may start harming themselves both mentally and physically. Although it sometimes seems unimaginable, suicide is also a distinct possibility.

Bullying-induced suicide itself has a multitude of victims. Parents have lost a child. Best friends have lost a best friend, and some of those friends take their own lives or harm themselves because they can’t live without their best friend.
There’s no “sorry,” no “I didn’t mean it” or “I was just joking.” Just an innocent life taken far too early because of the words that you said.

This is a worst case scenario, yes, but it’s real. This actually happens. Every year thousands of people harm themselves because of a bully’s harassment. Bullies are merchants of death, and their lack of real-world decency is appalling and malevolent.

To anyone like myself who has been a victim of bullying, it can be an immense chore to live with on a daily basis. But don’t give in. These biting jeers are just a couple of words from the forked tongue of a deeply-trouble person compensating for their own insecurity. I know it’s easier said than done, but at the end of the day these jokes hold less value than a nickel in the depression. Take it in stride and be confident knowing that by showing your courage in the face of adversity you are already infinitely more secure than the jester who mocks you. Kill them with kindness.

This lack of decency has also spread into the virtual realm, mainly in politics. Every day on Facebook I see people who complain about one-sidedness in politics, but never cease to post that demeaning photo about celebrity X or politician Y. It is hardly worth the energy it takes to tell them that, no President Obama isn’t a [expletive]. Mitt Romney need not be an [explative] in order for you to disagree with him as fundementally as you do.

These mean-spirited cranks seem so self-centered and enthralled with their own ability to form angry, uninformed opinions that they don’t know, or care to know,  the profound harm they cause. And it’s virtually impossible to deal with them.
It’s childish, and I’m making an active ongoing effort to change my own tendencies toward cruel jokes and ridicule. I don’t care if the potential subject is the most timid person in the room, or a politician campaigning across the country. I find that the most effective people are the ones who can be objective and use hard facts to back up their statements.

All in all, bullying in any form and the lack of decency of late is disturbing. When did we decide we wanted to live in a culture of put-downs? I’m not saying that all decency is gone, but that indecency is a lot more prevalent now than it used to be.
Bullies, you may think you have confidence in knowing that your victims won’t speak up to you, and that it’s all just a joke. Go visit the graves of the innocent people who never got a chance to speak up because of your torment.
Go visit the girl you teased who wears long-sleeves year round to hide the scars from cutting herself.

Go visit the gay teen who can’t proclaim his sexuality because the emotional bruises left by you hurt too much.

Tell me then it’s all a joke.

Andrew Henry is an English major in his senior year.

  • Ben

     SOME people could invite that, yes. But not everyone who gets raped does something to instigate. I think that’s generalizing a bit.

  • VRN33

     I don’t think he meant the friendly trolling on your friends’ facebook statuses. Everyone teases their best friends. Trolling can get pretty vicious and crosses the line at some point. I think he’s trying to say that when your trolling gets out of hand, regardless of whether it started as a joke, it’s still bullying.

  • VRN33

     Thank you for clarifying. I felt like your original comment did not reflect what you actually meant. I think that what you’re saying makes sense. I agree that kids should be taught to stand up for themselves. Unfortunately, you’re right when you say that telling a “grown up” doesn’t always do much. Parents and teachers often don’t do anything when kids come to them for help. Maybe it’s because they don’t actually know what to do. Usually the advice is just to ignore the bullying. Which is something that needs to change, in my opinion. Kids should be taught that it is okay to stand up for yourself, but adults should be taught that they need to stand up for others as well.

    Bullying is obviously a serious problem. I’m sorry for assuming you were a bully. As I said, your original comment did not make your intent clear. I’ve been bullied as well, and I’ve had to make it through a lot of stuff on my own. But I don’t think kids should have to feel like they’re on their own, like there’s nobody who can help them. I mean, they’re KIDS. They do have support. That’s what teachers and parents are for. I’m sorry you didn’t have that support when you were bullied, but that doesn’t mean every kid who’s bullied has to suffer through it on their own. You were obviously toughen enough to deal with it on your own, but some kids don’t have those coping skills. That’s why we see teen suicides and self-destructive behaviors.. because kids don’t always have those skills to deal with bullying. That’s everyone, kids AND adults, should be sticking up for anyone who is bullied. Whether it’s a kid at a middle school, or an adult at your workplace, we should be sticking up for all people who are bullied. Someone who’s bullied SHOULD fight back, but they need support to find the strength to do that.

  • Why

    That comment, when I read through it, was simply that he shouldn’t have used a fad, clearly one he doesn’t know about, to put a new spin on anti-bullying.

    It’s not attacking the message, just the way he went about it.

    So why are you attacking the person who posted it? 

  • Punched and Mugged

    She doesn’t deserve to be raped, but she is inviting it and those are two different things. 

    If I go outside and pick one person and start yelling at him, cursing, calling him names, insulting his family, etc. and he knocks my lights out, I obviously invited that, and no one would say otherwise.

    If I was in a really really bad part of town, at like two in the morning, going through money I had in my wallet, and I was mugged, yes people would be upset for me, but behind my back they’d be talking about how much of an idiot I am for walking there, at that time, flashing my money.

    And as far as Phoebe Prince, her aunt warned her school that she was both susceptible and prone to both being bullied and bullying others, which begs the question why? What was it that she was doing that was causing it in the first place and that lead it to continue. It may not be entirely her fault, but obviously something she was doing was aiding it. And that’s just from briefly reading about it.

  • Guest

    It’s being taught that you shouldn’t stand up for yourself, literally that’s what I was told throughout my education, “Don’t fight back, tell an adult,” and where does that get you? It doesn’t, it gets you a pat on the back and continuing to be bullied, probably more so for “snitching”.

    As far as what VRN33 said about me not having been bullied, and that I am one, and that I wouldn’t be able to stand up for myself without anyone there for me–surprise, I was bullied. A lot. And guess what, no one was on my side, because I happened to be from a family that was viewed as better off, so when kids from “worse off” families went after me, I had to deal, and any complaints resulted in my being punished for being insensitive to the different way they’ve been raised.

    The problem is people like VRN33, who have been inculcated to believe that as soon as someone is standoffish about bullying, and thinks the kids need to stand up for themselves, they’re being insensitive and cruel, when in reality a lot of the people saying these types of things are like me. Even the kids who’ve thought of killing themselves; I was there too, but I got through it, on my own. What do we accomplish by having anti-bullying programming? We teach kids “that it’s okay to stand up” and to tell adults or authority figures that they’re being bullied. How does that help them when they’re exposed to real life, where they’re going to be bullied because everyone wants what’s best for themselves and those they care about?

    I realize it’s not an optimistic way of looking at it, but that really isn’t the way the world works. There isn’t some trusted adult you can go to if someone treats you like shit at your job, besides maybe your parents, but all they’re going to say is that some people are jerks, and that you’ve gotta work through it.

    I just don’t think it’s okay to teach people not to stand up for themselves and to go to someone else to defend them. It’s a life skill, being able to defend yourself. The pride you need to do that is something you grow into, that you have to find on your own, not something someone else can tell you.

  • _elliott

    I definitely troll on my friends all the time, but I know there’s a line. Andrew is referring to the internet trolls who target individuals in a malicious attempt. For example, when Phoebe Prince who was a victim of bullying and killed herself, a facebook group was made in an attempt to show people how severe bullying is. Trolls took to it and began posting malicious things and pictures about her. THAT is bullying and THAT is what Andrew is talking about. Also, how can somebody say that because a person has insecurities it’s THEIR fault for being bullied? That’s like saying “oh, because that girl dressed in a low cut top and short shorts, she deserved to be raped. Because SHE dressed like that.” The truth of the matter is that bullying can happen to ANYONE even if their not insecure. 

  • Ben

    In all seriousness, can you expand on your opinion? Why do you think the solution is that easy? I’m really not joking around, I’d like to understand your argument.

  • VRN33

    Do you honestly think that’s the problem here? That’s SO hurtful to all of the people who have ever been bullied. It’s not that easy. A bully exerts physical or psychological control over another person, and makes that person feel helpless and out of control. Bullies tend to target people who are already insecure for one reason or another, and make them feel more insecure and helpless. And if you think that’s an easy situation, you’ve obviously never even experienced bullying. It’s clear by your comments that you probably are a bully. Just think about your comment. Think about someone who is bullied all day long everyday, and what that feels like. Think about how that can wear on a person. Think about how hard it would be to “just stand up for yourself” when you have no friends, no support, nobody who has your back.. Just THINK.

  • Guest

    You mean the same last sentences you see or read in every anti-bullying PSA?

    Also liked your comment about the basement, clearly ain’t bullying, yeah?

  • Gwrfozzg

    Maybe the problem is that they should stop feeling insecure and start standing up for themselves?

  • Anonymous

    Bullies put other down, thinking it will pull them up….Wrong….great article Andrew…

  • Joannestoughton

    I have great hope when someone of Andrew’s age speaks out, with courageous conviction.  Thank you, Andrew!

  • Linda C.

     Seriously? Shut up, you blowhard. This is an article about anti-bullying, and I was pretty impressed with the last few sentences. Is it investigative? Not exactly. Is it moving? Absolutely. A friend of mine was a cutter for years, and she still has trouble wearing short-sleeves.

    Also, how do your parents feel about you still living in their basement?

  • TrollPatrol

     You mean the type of trolling you’re doing now? Nice. And what’s wrong with anti-bully articles, anyway? It’s people like you who nitpick everything and cause people to feel insecure in the first place.

  • Anonymous

    “Trolling has become a recent phenomenon with the boom of Facebook and the blogosphere” – This is one of the most ignorant statements I’ve ever read in your newspaper. Trolling has been around for a lot longer than just the boom of facebook and originally was just to gently poke fun at someone in order to create humor. It’s the same structure that most comedians use in routines: find someone doing something stupid and tell it as a joke, and suddenly you’ve got a crowd-killer based off of one person.
    It started to evolve into more intricate ways to go after people and to egg them on, in order for them to make fools of themselves, whether it be because of someone criticizing the presentation of something or as a way to try and make the person over-react to empty threats that are as innocuous as the smiles put on peoples’ faces when they read the troll and the trolled going back and forth.

    We all laugh when we see ridiculous arguments on facebook, we laugh when we see someone doing something stupid in public, we all laugh when we’re told a story about somebody doing something ridiculous: and that’s all trolling. Comedy and humor is trolling. The way you’re talking about it just seems to me to be a general anti-bully article that tried to be more credible by attaching incorrect information about a phrase that people have suddenly fallen into use of along with memes and hashtags.