Do you think bullying is a problem predominantly reserved for middle school kids? When you hear stories about bullying, do you identify the sole victim as the child being targeted? Both of these are common assumptions, but statistics inform us that neither is completely accurate.
Times have changed, and those changes are changing us.
What we do know about bullies is that they are most likely being bullied themselves. It is commonly a learned behavior from peers, parents or both. We also know that bullying is no longer reserved for the schoolyard, teens or tweens. With the growth of the Internet, bullying is now front and center online (cyberbullying), and affects users of all ages.
Before we dive into this phenomenon, I want you to think about how you behave while interacting in cyberland. If you frequently leave comments on blogs or reply to status updates and tweets, are your online responses less kind or more judgmental than your in-person responses might be? Especially if you do not actually know the person?
We are seeing an increase in rude or downright cruel online behavior, especially on blogs and Twitter, which are more anonymous than Facebook. This anonymity seems to give people cyber balls (similar to beer goggles without the excuse of being drunk) that they do not possess in a face-to-face situation. If you have deemed yourself "Judge Judy of the Internet," as my assistant Marie would say, ask yourself why. What's in it for you? What is the secondary gain of this behavior? How do you feel after you press the "post" button?
It's time to look at online interaction as real life, because whether you like it or not, it is.
I want to invite/inspire/challenge you to be as polite, supportive and mindful of the power of words as weapons online as you are in your interpersonal interactions. It's easy to post something without giving it much thought, but before you press the "post" or "publish" button, pause for one deep breath and ask yourself these questions from Buddhist and Hindu teachings, often referred to as "the three gates of speech:" Is it true; is it necessary; is it kind. Ask them in this order, and only if the answer to all three is "yes" does your comment get the green light for publishing.
A mindful cyberland filled with conscious interactions and caring humans can help restore the civility that reality television and the 24-hour news cycle have been stripping from our social fabric for the past decade.
You are either part of the problem or part of the solution.
I hope you have an amazing week, filled with true, necessary and kind words to share to yourself and others.
Love Love Love
Terri Cole is a licensed psychotherapist known for her holistic approach, combining practical psychology, thought innovation, and harnessing the power of intention to create sustainable change. She has a unique ability to take complex theories and translate them into actionable steps you can implement into your daily life. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.