Monday, January 20, 2014

My Bullying Story

"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to 
bear." Martin Luther King Jr.

In the second grade I had a school bus bully, two actually. The ride home from school every day was humiliating and sometimes scary. Due to assigned seats and timing I sat across the aisle from two boys in the grade above me who denigrated me every chance they had. The anxiety would start to build up when it was time to line up for the bus. I would beg my teacher to let us leave for the bus a couple of minutes early. If I could just make it earlier than the other two girls, I could sit inside our seat and evade the boys. But we were not allowed to go out of order. So every day of second grade I faced these bullies. But in less than a half hour the bullying was over and I was home. They could no longer reach me. Now it's different, through the internet kids and adults are subjected to bullying twenty four hours a day. 

Alphie checking out the interwebs. 

According to, 58% of kids say that someone has been mean or said something hurtful to them online and bullying victims are 2-9 times more likely to consider committing suicide. Various websites and apps are being used by both adults and teens to anonymously and sometimes not so anonymously bully each other. Some examples are Snapchat (read recent media story about the site here), Fit or Fugly (rate the person's worth based on a photo), Facebook and Twitter. Most adults I know would easily be able to identify bullying between kids. But lately I've run into a trend of people (that often I respect and care about) misnaming adult bullying as free speech.

The first amendment to the constitution protects our freedom of speech. This amendment has a significant role in our identity as a democracy (bias of information available is a topic for another day). I have very liberal views on freedom of speech and censorship. The thought of censorship being imposed on us makes me angry. Access to information is vital. However, to identify something as a freedom of speech issue it must meet the criteria of government intervention.  Anything else is not a freedom of speech issue. Expressing hate for anyone because they are gay, straight, black, brown, disabled, poor, wealthy, have a different body type or religion, slut shaming, and so on, is bullying. And yes, I do think using religion to shame people is a very thin veil. That's still hate my friends.  If you say something hurtful, hateful and denigrating there are consequences. And more often than not the consequences are unseen. Such consequences may be the anxiety, shame and humiliation I felt every day of the second grade. Other consequences may also be experienced by the bully, such as the loss of respect and trust by peers and negative effects on professional and educational careers. 

Personally, I have struggled  maintaining a social media relationship with people I see doing these things. I am conflicted, I want to understand their side of the discussion. But I can't wrap my mind around entitlement to be hateful. As someone that is so easily drawn into the negativity around me, I need to purposely engage in positive relationships and surround myself with those that express love.  I feel stuck. I want to hit delete or unfriend, but also want to understand those different than myself.  I can't and won't write off a whole person as being "bad" because there is a part of them that I don't agree with. For now, I haven't made any changes. 

Have you made changes to your social media exposure? Do you think cutting out people because of their hurtful (to me or you) views means the loss of an opportunity for another view point? 

I'll end with words that always make me feel good: love is love.




  1. It's an interesting question. I used to think I could affect change better if I could tolerate open debates on any and every subject with whoever. Either I've wisened or tired, or both and find that people are pretty settled in their stance and just like to argue. I still have open discussions with friends of differing views, but there is already a loving, respectful person there. I grew up in a conservative crowd who I differed from very early on. The ones open to me continue to be so and vice versa. I decided early on I would only be 'friends' on Facebook with my actual friends or people I was interested in being friends with. :)

  2. Rachel, I think what I can take from you is that if a relationship does not exist then there is not mutual love, and therefore no reason to subject ones self. Is that right? Then my next issue would be whom am I not in relationship with? Because I am so very sentimental, that that's a hard one for me to discern.

  3. I hear you. It gets murky for sure. Having differing views/qualitites is pretty exciting to me, but assholeness can't be one of them. :)