Be kind online
Social media bullying should be addressed with the same seriousness as bullying within the workplace. By Fiona Powell.
THE way we communicate has changed. Today most of us communicate and keep in touch online and through social media channels. Unfortunately the consequence of anonymously communicating from behind a screen makes it easier for people to be thoughtless, cruel and spiteful toward others online. Without the right leadership and role models our online social worlds can become a spawning ground for cyber bullies and trolls.
Scroll through the comments on a YouTube video and you’ll inevitably discover hateful comments and nasty remarks directed toward the person who made the video, the people and content in the video and even toward other people making comments. The same goes for any social media platform that invites comments; Facebook, Twitter and even the comments section of our leading news sites and media blogs.
The culture of the haters spreads when unchecked and unmoderated. In a pack mentality others wade in to add their piece and the viciousness escalates and spirals out of control, and then becomes the ‘norm’ behaviour.
Chances are your employees and colleagues have been on the receiving end of some nasty attacks online. While some of us brush it off, for others it’s incredibly upsetting, and for others it’s unbearable. Cyber bullying is potentially a factor in the increase of youth suicide in New Zealand and remember television personality Charlotte Dawson who took her life in Sydney last year after being subjected to cyber bullying?
Taking the lead against cyber bullying in New Zealand is the generation who encounter it the most; our youth. A student-led initiative in Otago called Sticks and Stones, says accepting cyber bullying as part of life online is not okay. Instead they’re promoting a positive way of communicating rather than ‘spreading hate and tearing people down’.
Likewise, Web Rangers, an initiative from Netsafe and Google NZ, is a programme where Kiwi teens (14-17 year olds) campaign amongst their peers for the safe use of the internet. Participants create campaigns that promote positive online behaviour using the same digital mediums where they encounter negative behaviour – YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat.
Campaigns range from staying positive, to protecting privacy, to not falling victim to online scams.
One example of a Web Ranger campaign is a YouTube video by Hayley Smith who filmed people reacting to having both insults and compliments yelled at them on a busy Auckland street. Her tagline, “Just because it’s anonymous, doesn’t mean you don’t feel it,” summed up her social experiment perfectly.
The Aroha Project is a six part YouTube webseries with each episode focusing on a person’s story and experiences of been bullied, at times on social media. The project is part of a multifaceted initiative responding to bullying, alienation and suicide risk amongst young Maori and Pacific LGBT youth.
Leaders can learn from our younger generations and set an example for others as good digital citizens by being positive online, encouraging a positive online culture and reinforcing cyber bullying is not okay. Social media bullying should be addressed with the same seriousness as bullying within the workplace. Fiona Powell has trained, managed and presented to large and small businesses on social media. She is currently publisher/producer of WebShowCentral.tv and an aspiring web series creator. She is also the former editor of Management.