I recently posted something on a parent group I participate on in Facebook with the intention of helping others. There was a tragedy in the community which I live, and being a therapist, I wanted to let people know about my services for those in need of counseling.
About a half an hour later I logged back onto Facebook to see what seemed like an endless trail of comments in response to my post. A couple of them were supportive, but the majority of them were quite the opposite. They were mean and hurtful. They were vindictive. I was accused of using a time of tragedy to drum up business. I was in utter shock and disbelief. As I read through the comments, there was a continuous thread of new posts being added. It was happening so quickly I didn’t know what to do. I quickly decided to write an apology post to those that were offended by my offering but seconds later; it was gone. All of it was gone. The entire post and all of its likes and comments were erased. It all happened so quickly, and at the blink of an eye, it was all like it never happened.
People told me it was good that my post got deleted, that it would have only continued to get worse. Though that is probably true, I felt like my experience was taken away from me. I know that may seem odd, but after it was deleted, it almost felt like it never happened, like I could have been making it up. I started to question myself, did that really happen? The bottom line was that there was no proof of it. It was all gone. And all I could do was collect myself, and move forward with my day. I reached out to a couple of my friends in the group. Some had seen what happened and felt terrible. Others wanted to see what happened but there was nothing to see. All I could do was recount to them the fragmented memories left in my mind.
It really put into perspective for me what our children are going through online. The Internet wasn’t around when I was growing up, so we had no choice but to bully each other in person, in writing, or on the phone. Now with the Internet, bullying is bigger, stronger, more powerful, and erasable than ever before. Being the victim of bullying is awful, end of story. But cyber-bullying is no joke. It happens so quickly, there are so many people involved (there are over 600 people in the group I posted on who all were able to see what happened,) and then it’s gone, erased, deleted, and over.
Teenagers, who have five million things going on in their head at once, that have low self-esteem, who are trying to figure themselves out, have to deal with this as part of their daily experience. I think about the impact it had on me as a working professional adult and mother, but to think about if something like this had happened to my teenage self, it would have simply been devastating.
Our poor children are suffering; hurting themselves and even killing themselves because they feel like the world is against them. My wish is that parents really think about the impact of what they post on others. What message are they sending their own children? As parents, it’s up to us to set the example. It’s time for us to take a stance against bullying, and the first step, is for us not to do it ourselves.