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.