Be kind on­line

So­cial me­dia bul­ly­ing should be ad­dressed with the same se­ri­ous­ness as bul­ly­ing within the work­place. By Fiona Pow­ell.

NZ Business - - SOCIAL MEDIA -

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.

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