Cyber bullying is commonly defined as an aggressive intentional act carried out by a group or individual through the use of electronic forms of contact, repeatedly and over time, against an individual who cannot easily defend him/herself. Two key words are “aggressive” and “intentional.” Cyber bullying is an “abusive” behaviour which we “choose” to engage in. Tragically, cyber bullying has become a normative behaviour; in other words, one which has woven its way into the fabric of our beings. However, there is hope to eradicate this toxin by inoculating ourselves with three vaccines. We have discussed, “The Vaccine of Being Present”, The Vaccine of Being Available.” Today, we will delve into “The Vaccine of Being Similar.”
The Vaccine of Being Similar
For many years, many cultures have moved towards a norm where there is more tolerance of one another and more acceptance of our differences, and we have learned to acknowledge the uniqueness and specialness of one another. In our best moments, we have celebrated the diversity of our nations and bettered ourselves because of it. Tragically, with the advancements of technology and the social wave of entitlement and self-inflated sense of voice, we have taken on personas that seek to divide instead of unite, and we have acted out in ways through social networking which create a culture of public humiliation and degradation. It is only in extreme crises such as 9-11 in the US, bombings in England, France, and a plethora of horrific acts of terror throughout the world, that we feel a short-lived surge of unity and togetherness, allowing common threads of vulnerability and humanity to take hold of us as we move in unison toward a compassionate response. During these critical times we open our minds and our hearts to the human truth that the vaccine which will inoculate us against the divisive brutality on the Internet, or in our real lives, is within us. We recognize that although we are each different and unique, at our core we know the truth of being similar.
How, then, do we move from a norm that has facilitated the development a false persona of empowerment, entitlement, and endangerment to one of compassionate respect and regard for one another?
We can start a dialogue which reinforces our sameness.
As we spend time sharing our injurious experiences with one another, we need to identify the commonalities of those experiences. While drawing upon the familiar themes of the human spirit – its fragility, its endurance and its resilience – we can create connections between and among us that have lain dormant. Drawing from specific personal examples, we must emphasize that all of humanity shares in the basic needs of respect, dignity, and regard. By allocating time and opportunity to experience these healing dialogues, we make room for the waves of togetherness to wash away the toxins of separation and singleness. We must not wait any longer; cyber bullies are relentless in spreading apathy and ambivalence. Let our words combat complacency; let our actions fuel the curative energies which draw us together. Let us do this now.
We can start by learning from examples where similarities pulled us together.
In our dialogues, we not only need to claim past well-known examples of human togetherness (9-11, Paris and London tragedies, etc.), but we must acknowledge the everyday heroic deeds of one another. Within our own communities, organizations, schools, and homes, spending time affirming and validating the behaviours that exemplify unity rather than division are paramount. When we acknowledge the brave actions of those who stood between a bully and a victim, who prevented a private image from being launched on the internet, who stopped a vicious email from going viral, or who walked away from a potential harmful act, we negate the notion, “It is his/her problem – it is not mine.” When we learn how easy it is to become a victim, how bullies can turn against anyone in an instant, and how loyal friends disappear quickly when we need them, we become more aware that our belief in the statement, “It will never happen to me- I am different,” can easily be shattered. Sharing our common experiences allows us to connect with one another and to bond more deeply because we see ourselves in one another. We must share our personal stories; we must share them often. All of us must be willing to listen, to learn, and to value how similar we really are.
We can begin by taking a thorough inventory of our attitudes and beliefs and by challenging ourselves to move from positions of singularity to those of plurality.
Having a conversation about compassionate respect and regard for one another is a critical beginning; however, it is up to each of us to take an honest inventory of our own attitudes and beliefs. Real change can take hold when we acknowledge our deficits and when we are willing to redefine ourselves through adopting new ways of being. Although this process can be very complex, we can start by examining our motives and asking ourselves if what we say and do is beneficial for others as well as for ourselves. Are we inclusive in our thinking and feeling, or do we tend to exclude others from our position or stance. Are we concerned only about ourselves or our group, or do consider others as well? Simply put, do we navigate from a position of being better than others and thus more entitled or do we view others as our equals? Each of us must self –assess; each of us must make changes in our attitudes and beliefs. Move slowly , but keep moving towards a spirit of compassion. Daily, check your words; check your behaviours – are they healing or hurting others? Keep growing; keep stretching; let the vaccine of being similar take over and pull you towards a spirit of one.
We can begin by moving away from self-focused behaviours to other- focused actions.
Once we have identified our deficiencies in singular thinking and feeling and we have adopted more inclusive thought processes, we can begin implementing actions which move us away from self-focused behaviours. Moving against societal norms which encourage self-gratification at all costs will not be easy, but each time we serve another, stand strong in support of a victim, or rescue an injured individual, we will experience immeasurable fulfillment and joy. Challenging societal norms which value the voices of self-inflated and entitled anonymous identities will indeed be an enormous undertaking, but each word that is spoken in defense of injured soul or each voice that fights against the degradation of another human being will lessen the poison of technology – cyber bullying. Begin a little at a time but start looking for opportunities to serve, to help, to speak up. Daily, reach out to someone, even in a small way. You may be the only hero that person ever sees. Don’t stop; keep giving and doing. We must be strong; we must not waver in our commitment to being other-focused. We must make a conscious effort to infect humanity with a new virus – compassionate respect and regard for one another. Most importantly, we must start now.
In conclusion, while our legal and judicial systems are desperately attempting to curb and contain the ongoing destruction created in the wake of cyber bullying, we have at our disposal three effective vaccines: being present, being available, and being similar. We have these powerful antidotes within us; they cost nothing but our time and our attention. By drawing upon the inherent compassion of the human spirit, both individually and collectively, we not only bring healing to the hurting but we inoculate ourselves from contagious social norms largely responsible for the spread of the cyber bullying contagion. As we slowly experience the transfusion of healthier interpersonal/intrapersonal social norms infiltrate and cultivate our ways of being, we can replenish our spirits, we can reclaim our truths, and we can rebuild our lives – together.
Publisher’s Note: Holli Kenley is an American Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the author of “ Daughters Betrayed By Their Mothers: Moving from Brokenness to Wholeness” and “Power Down & Parent Up!: Cyber Bullying, Screen Dependence & Raising Tech-Healthy Children”