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11 (More) Clichés to Using Social Media Responsibly

When I started writing an article on how many clichés I could apply to using social media responsibly, I was a little amazed at how many of them applied. Especially since most, if not all of them, originated before social media was ever created. The first 10 clichés were posted on my blog for the local paper. Here are the rest of them:

Do Unto Others…

This is probably not going to be what you expect. If you expected the rest of the saying to go on as, “as you would have them do unto you,” then you’re wrong. The new Golden Rule is not to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, but to do onto others as they wish to be treated. Not everybody reacts in the same way, so assuming that everyone else sees things the same way that you do or that they get and appreciate your sense of humor is a false assumption.

Don’t Do Anything I Wouldn’t Do

“I don’t know that I’d want to do anything that you would do,” is how you hear many people reply to this cliché. The other image that comes to my mind is that of lemming jumping off of a cliff. Peer pressure can be a huge factor in how people, especially teenagers act. Everyone needs to decide for themselves instead of worry about what other people do.

The Elephant in the Room

There are plenty of topics relating to using social media responsibly that can fall under this cliché. Probably the most important is cyberbullying. I meet with many parents and this is a big concern for them. Many have no idea what to do about it or even how to spot the warning signs.

Part of the problem is getting a conversation started on the topic. Parents may be hesitant to even want to discuss a topic where their kids may know more about it that they do. Still, there are ways to get them talking about it, even without having to get into the technical jargon. Here is an article that I wrote that provides over a dozen ways to get the conversation going.

Even when there is evidence that their child may have participated in cyberbullying activity, parents can often be reluctant to get involved for a variety of reasons. If a child is ever accused of doing such things, here are some suggestions on how their parents can proceed.

Hindsight is 20/20

In some cases of “cyberbullying,” it may really be a misunderstanding. That is, what was interpreted as being intentionally malevolent may have been taken out of context or not interpreted properly. Once it upsets someone, the original posted may realize how the other person perceived it. Rather than have to apologize later, everyone needs to THINK before they post:

This goes along with another cliché aboout an ounce of prevention…

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

When companies have people make complaints on their social media sites, good companies respond, letting the customer know that they want to help them resolve the problem. In the cases of companies in the healthcare field, like the one where I work, we are obligated by law to respond. However, for people that are getting harassed or bullied online, they have no such requirement. That’s a good thing.

When someone bullies a person, it is often because it’s the only way that they can feel good about themselves – by making another person feel bad. "Bullies aren't looking to be loved, but they are looking to be noticed," explains sociology professor, Dr. Rene Veenstra.

When the target gets upset, it can fuel the aggressor’s motivation to keep it going. Often times, simply by ignoring the bullying behavior, the aggressor will lose interest because they are not getting the attention that they crave.

Recently, I was targeted by an online troll who actually accused me of being a cyberbully. I was surprised, to say the least. I tried to engage the person in a conversation to see if I could come to an understanding. The attacks started on my Twitter account and moved over to my Facebook page. At that point, I realized that there was no reasoning with her. I ended up blocking her from both sites. Then others on Twitter showed me where she was posting my contact information on websites, asking others to attack me. Fortunately, everyone else saw through her charade.

The lesson here is that when I didn’t give her what she wanted, she stopped coming after me directly. It would have been real easy for her to create alternate accounts on both Twitter and Facebook to circumvent how I’d blocked her original accounts, but she realized that wouldn’t get her very far. That’s when she tried to enlist (lots) of other people to attack me. That went nowhere and I’m glad to say that I haven’t had to deal with the issue in several weeks, so I’m hoping/expecting that the matter is closed.

If you are attacked online, don’t give in and give them the satisfaction. Remember, nobody can take away your self-esteem unless you let them do it.

People who Live in Glass Houses Should not Throw Stones

What a great idea! None of us are perfect. Beyond the deliberate attacks made on social media that qualify as cyberbullying, there are also incidents where people viciously attack others via comments on websites/blogs when they don’t like what someone else has done.

Each of us have made mistakes and when other people make rude comments about it, the effects can negatively affect others. One of the best examples that I can give about this was what happened to Amanda Todd. This young girl, in a moment of poor judgment, did something that eventually caused her to commit suicide.

It wasn’t the actions of her immediate attacker than caused her to take her own life. Instead, it was when other kids in her own school began calling her hateful names and hitting her. Amanda’s mother moved her to multiple schools, but the story of what happened to her followed her there as well. Finally, after previous attempts, she committed suicide.

Did she make a poor choice? Yes. Did she deserve to be attacked and brutalized for it? Not a chance!

That Which Does not Kill You Makes Your Stronger

Is it inappropriate or fitting for me to include this cliché after the previous story about Amanda Todd? Clearly, I am not advocating for attacks to hurt people only so that they can make them stronger in the long run. However, being able to fend off attacks is something that unfortunately, almost everyone will have to do at some point in their lives.

I myself was bullied quite a bit during my early teens. I was small for my age, until the summer between eight and ninth grades. On top of that, I was a very good student. Neither of those traits were going to win me points with the kids from the “tough” crowd. Then, in my first year of high school, I did something that I remember that changed everything. I decided to sit in the very last seat on the school bus on the way home.

By this point, I was no longer stuck at the front of the bus, but I was never allowed to sit any closer than the fifth row from the back. I’d decided that I’d had enough. When the tough crowd came on board as a group, I got several looks that told me just what they thought of me at that moment. One of the girls from the crowd who now would be known as a Goth Girl, who probably outweighed me by about 40-50 pounds, told me to leave. When I refused, she sat on me. I took a lot of smoke being blown in my face and she made a point of adjusting her weight often.

I rarely even tried to sit in the back seat after that, but when I did, there were no objections. Yes, it took some personal strength for me to stand up to the group, but they backed down, as bullies are prone to do when people stand up to them. OKay, that last link was a bit of a stretch, but who didn't feel good watching that part of the movie?

Short Pleasures are often Long Regretted

In other words, people can often be shortsighted and actions that seem like fun at the time can come back to haunt them later on in life. The best example relating to social media that I can give involves sexting – the practice of sending sexually charged messages between people, often with racy images . This can be done using text messages or by using apps like SnapChat.

A study published in 2014 by the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that, “This study extends cross-sectional literature and supports the notion that sexting fits within the context of adolescent sexual development and may be a viable indicator of adolescent sexual activity.” In other words, sexting can lead to a change in sexual behaviors and/or an increase in sexual activity.

In a more recent study, conducted by Drexel University that was published in the Journal of Sexuality Research and Social Policy, more than half of the people who took part in the survey admitted that they sexted with others when they were teens. The majority of the people in the Drexel study did not realize that sending nude pictures via texting could be considered child pornography.

Laws that cover sexting may pre-date the internet, so they may not be “up to speed” with today’s culture. Should a person be convicted of sexting, it may require them to have to register as a sex offender, with all sorts of unexpected consequences, including:

  • Not being able to work in some professions, such as education

  • Restrictions on where you can live (not near schools)

  • Having to report to the police regularly to provide a current photograph

  • Having to register with their local municipality

  • Having to register with their Internet service provider

Now you can see how something that was meant to be fun and fleeting could end up causing long term, even permanent harm to someone.

Those that do not Learn from their Mistakes Will Repeat Them

People often use this cliché, but it seems, rarely take it to heart. I have seen many people make the same mistakes over and over again. Even when their mistakes are pointed out to them, people can fall into the same bad habits, causing harm again and again. An often used humorous definition of crazy is doing something over and over again while expecting a different result. It’s a perfect metaphor for this practice.

What Comes Around Goes Around

Some people like to call it karma, but people need to remember that there is always going to be someone bigger or stronger or tougher than they are. Most bullies can talk the talk, but can’t walk the walk. You have probably seen a bully who caved in right away when their target didn’t react as the bully had expected.

Related to that, is what happens when the victim gets help from someone else and that person takes a more “proactive” approach to the problem. I was the younger of two boys growing up. I’d always wished that there was another sibling younger than I was to protect. I really wanted a younger sister that I could “protect” from boys that tried to date her, but I digress… In my case, it was more likely that my brother encouraged the bullies. Maybe that’s what all big brothers do?

Many victims do not ask for help and that’s a shame, because there is plenty of help to be found. In the most recent episode of Girl Meets World on Disney, the lead character, Riley, is cyberbullied anonymously via text messages. She does not ask for help, ashamed that she can’t handle the situation by herself. When one of the characters, Farkle, who had his own experiences with bullying in season one of the show, figures out what is happening to his friend, he rallies all of Riley’s friends to her aid.

Now, while in true Disney form, the bully simply walked away when confronted by a strong showing of support by her friends, it could have happened very differently. One of the characters, Lucas, Riley’s romantic interest in the show, has a back story that shows him to have a pretty aggressive, maybe even violent past. When he finds out what is happening to Riley, he demonstrates a show of force to break out of the bonds that his friend put him in so that they could tell him what was happening without letting his inner rage come out and act aggressively.

In another (non-Disney) version of the story, Lucas would have found the bully and probably hurt that person pretty severely. Of course, in a Disney TV show, we’re glad to have the ending that the story had. In real life, that is a very real possibility.

You Can’t Judge Someone Until You Walk a Mile in their Shoes

I saved this cliché for last for a reason: it may be the ultimate cliché. Too often, people bully others because they are different than themselves. The motivation for attacking another person can come from any number of reasons, including jealousy, just being mean and not knowing what the other person has to deal with in their personal lives:

  • Maybe the kid that never wants to play after school has to get home to take care of their siblings so that their parents can go to work?

  • Maybe the boy that gets harassed for being gay (and so what if he is?) simply has a better appreciation for dressing well and being polite.

  • The girl who always hats because she has no hair is because she’s going through radiation treatments for cancer.

  • The boy that gets called stupid may have a learning disability.

  • What about the boy that just got teased for crying? Maybe he just found out that one of his family members is terminally Ill?

  • Maybe the girl that everyone says is fat has an eating disorder?

  • The girl that never seems to want to interact with others? Maybe she’s being abused at home?

  • The man that gets called ugly because he has scars? Maybe he received them defending his country while in the military?

  • The girl who always wears long sleeves? She’s been getting anonymous text messages encouraging her to kill herself because nobody likes her and has been cutting herself.

I think you get the point.

When my father passed away in high school, I didn’t want the students knowing what had happened. Nobody really knew that he’d been sick with a brain tumor for several years. When he finally passed, my mom called the school to let them know that I would be out for a few days. They let my teacher know. Unfortunately, she did not tell them to keep it private, so when the administration told my teacher, he told everyone in my class. He was probably thinking that it would help everyone understand why I was not myself, but I would have preferred to keep it a secret.

The truth is that everyone and I mean everyone, has something going on in their life that affects how they act. Most of the time, for most of the people, they involve good things, but when something really throws a wrench into the works, not everyone reacts to it in the same way.

The next time you see someone that is being treated in a potentially bad way, make a point of being kind to that person. It can make all the difference in the world. Amanda Todd, a suicide victim after being repeatedly attacked via cyberbullying said that she felt so alone. If one person had been kind to her, perhaps she’d still be with us today.

That’s it. I hope you liked my lists and maybe even learned a thing or two.

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