The Cyberbullying we Love to Do
We hear plenty of protest about cyberbullying when it involves teenagers. We are consumed with outrage when attractive women are slut-shamed online. The fact is, we need to be concerned about cyberbullying. Unlike the bullying of my generation’s childhood, which was brutal enough, it’s hard to escape from cyberbullying because your online persona follows you everywhere.
There’s another kind of cyberbullying. There are particular people who are perfectly acceptable targets to insult, dehumanize and abuse online. If you are having a bad day, you can find a photo of some unfortunate person and unleash whatever mean-spirited attack you want upon them.
Perhaps insulting someone else makes us feel better about ourselves. I may be having a bad hair day, but I look great compared to the fat f*ck in this picture.
Yesterday a radio station posted an extremely unfortunate candid shot of an overweight woman in very ill-fitting clothing. The station wanted to know our thoughts about this person. I was shocked by people’s comments. No one seemed to remember that she was a human being.
Finally, I suggested that this was cyberbullying, and maybe not the kindest thing to do.
I was told, in no uncertain terms, that it wasn’t cyberbullying because the woman was so overweight, and her clothing so inappropriate, that she deserved what she got.
Bullying isn’t bullying when we think it’s deserved? Spoken like a true bully.
It seems the general consensus is, if a person is particularly unattractive, it is not cyberbullying to post unkind things about them online. Overweight people, poorly dressed people and unfashionable people deserve to be mocked because the sight of them offends our eyes. And so we post their pictures online and share them, so we can be offended, judgmental and mean.
I remember reading a blogpost from an overweight woman whose unflattering Halloween photo went viral. Her experience made one fact very real for me. Our society has made not living up to certain physical standards an acceptable reason to discount, trivialize and dehumanize our fellow human beings.
I blame Glamour magazine for this horrific societal trend. Without the “Glamour Dos and Don’ts” we would never be so desensitized to this kind of cruelty.
I admit that I’ve watched the “People of Walmart” video and laughed out loud. I tried to tell myself it was because of the clever original song. There was certainly a part of me that felt badly for laughing at picture after picture of bizarrely dressed people, knowing that in many cases I was laughing at the mentally ill, the physically sick, the addicted, and the impoverished.
Public shaming has been a part of our American culture since our beginnings. In the olden days, we shamed people by putting them in stockades in the town square. Now we put them on the internet. Instead of hurling rotten food, we hurl insults.
Maybe it’s time for us to evolve now.