Tech­nol­ogy ex­ac­er­bates teases, taunts and ru­mors

Santa Fe New Mexican - - GENERATION MEXT - Ramona Park is a se­nior at Santa Fe High School. Con­tact her at yohara­mona@gmail. com.

Bul­ly­ing. Most peo­ple hear this word and imag­ine some kid get­ting shoved into the lock­ers.

But I hear this word and pic­ture a text, a screen­shot and the rapid spread of ru­mors through the in­ter­webs.

What ini­ti­ated this change in per­spec­tive? Ex­pe­ri­ence. I know how it goes. Based on how I was treated five years ago, I could not un­der­stand that three years later, I was the bully.

But if I don’t phys­i­cally touch some­one or ver­bally abuse them, it’s not bul­ly­ing, right? Wrong. Bul­ly­ing can start with a sim­ple screen­shot on a group chat, but can es­ca­late quickly. It’s some­thing I was guilty of but didn’t un­der­stand at first.

“Did you see her lat­est In­sta­gram post? God, she’s such a … .”

Spec­u­la­tion over what hap­pened in that photo, or how some­one ap­pears in a photo leads to gos­sip — or worse.

With the in­ter­net, no one will ever tell you things to your face, and what they say to oth­ers is un­cen­sored. It be­comes an enor­mous tan­gle of “he said, she said,” and gos­sip be­comes twisted be­cause of a sin­gle text or share.

Soon the in­di­vid­ual be­ing tar­geted gains a rep­u­ta­tion. And they don’t even know why.

It’s not like you can re­port your en­tire school for bul­ly­ing if you are eat­ing alone at lunch be­cause no one wants to sit with you, or if you’re the odd one out in group projects be­cause they be­lieve some ru­mor posted on­line about you.

To­day, it’s nearly im­pos­si­ble to blame one source, and that’s why, con­trary to what we are taught, it’s not as easy as ig­nor­ing some­one, block­ing a num­ber or hit­ting “un­fol­low.”

Thus, the de­pres­sion that can often re­sult from this kind of bul­ly­ing can be at­trib­uted to some­thing else — it be­comes just another “mil­len­nial prob­lem.”

This is the real ef­fect of bul­ly­ing to­day. So­cial me­dia makes peo­ple feel lone­lier be­cause we seek val­i­da­tion from “likes” and com­ments to val­i­date who we are. Even when you’re sur­rounded by peo­ple or have hun­dreds of “likes” on that photo, you can still feel alone or sense that some­thing is off or be com­pletely un­aware of what peo­ple re­ally say about you.

Oc­to­ber is Na­tional Bul­ly­ing Preven­tion Month, and we are con­stantly told to put a stop to harm­ful com­ments or tell a re­spon­si­ble adult if we wit­ness bul­ly­ing.

But how can you tell some­one when you don’t even know from where or whom it’s com­ing?

Bul­ly­ing can start with a sim­ple screen­shot on a group chat, but can es­ca­late quickly.

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