Bold words behind computer screens

By BenitaZepeda

It’s no surprise to anyone who has ever been on YouTube or seen a dramatic argument on someone’s Facebook wall to realize how out of control our generation is with online bullying.

Whether it is a video of someone playing the latest Lady Gaga song on the guitar or a photo posted of someone who has gained “the freshman 15,” everyone with the ability to type and click the “post comment” button at the bottom of a Web page instantly becomes a critic.

Some of these comments might boost someone’s ego, such as a congratulatory comment or a compliment on one’s looks. But many times, these words are cruel and can push people over the edge.

In a survey conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project in 2007, roughly 32 percent of teenagers who use the Internet or cell phones have been victims of cyberbullying. This includes nasty comments, threats and private messages being forwarded or read without consent.

This may not seem like a large number, but consider how many young adults and teenagers use the Internet and cell phones and have access to the comments and messages.

The Internet has entirely changed how society communicates. Comments that would never be said to someone’s face are now freely written online.

This has started to get so out of hand that it has led to suicides. Many young teenagers feel bullied online in addition to “traditional” bullying at school, and they might feel no other option exists. Students as young as nine have chosen to end their lives because of their inability to deal with the pressure of insensitive comments.

What makes this even more terrible is when parents get involved. I’m not sure if they thrive on the drama or want to live vicariously through their children. In cases such as the one in 2006 involving 13-year-old Megan Meier, who was harassed not by another teenager but by her former friend’s mother via a fake MySpace account, a parent is to blame for driving the already depressed teen to take her own life.

It baffles me that people have the audacity to push someone to his or her limit because they are cowering behind a keyboard, mouse and computer screen. These situations wouldn’t be happening if cyber bullies were face-to-face with their victims and could literally see the torment their actions were causing.

On the other hand, this could bring us to a new societal norm in which we speak everything on our minds as if we are in an online forum. If that is true, we will have an entirely barbaric society compared to the way things are now. But until that day, people will continue to bully from behind the screen.