Someone asked me the other day what dealing with bullying was like back in the old days. Apparently, “back in the old days” now refers to when I and other people my age were in grade school. My therapist has told me to only admit how old I’m comfortable in revealing, so I’ll stick with the age that I tend to act; mid 20s. Wait. I have co-workers that age. Late 20s. Definitely late 20s.
And aside from local politics, maybe some regional politics, the 21st Chilean miner who was greeted by his mistress instead of his wife and all the other usual doom and gloom, a recurring topic has been the rash of gay suicides caused by bullying. Celebrities have spoken up about it, personalities have launched YouTube campaigns and other organizations are attempting to raise awareness.
Bullying, regardless of sexual orientation, should simply not be tolerated and one life lost because of it is one life too many. Social media giant Facebook apparently agrees since, in the wake of the gay teen suicides, it announced that they were working closely with GLAAD and other LGBT organizations to move quickly on removing hateful speech from their site. This will probably cause some confusion between hateful speech and legitimate postings. After all, Lambda Literary Award winning author Frank Anthony Polito had a fan page for his book “Band Fags!” removed earlier this year because of a particular word and it took some time before convincing the powers that be that he wasn’t spreading propaganda.
Perhaps the oddest thing to come out of this is when MTV announced they were releasing an iPhone App to combat bullying. MTV? Didn’t they play music once? Like when I was a teenager? Anyway, the app allows users to share a story about how they were bullied or harassed etc, which is…oh, boy…supposed to encourage folks to think critically about what they’re doing to their friends.
If that doesn’t make you sit up and go “huh?”, nothing will. That app is going to stop bullying? Really?
On a more useful note, an anti-bullying law in Massachusetts inspired a local in South Hadley, the sight of a teen suicide, to develop a software application that allows folks to make online reports of suspected bullying that are sent to school administrators, anonymously if desired. If the report has enough evidence to be seen as valid, it’s “activated” for a week and shows up on the dashboards of teachers, coaches or others lower-level officials who have regular interactions with the student in question. Now that’s an app!
Considering how long bullying has been around, it’s unlikely that it’ll be stopped anytime soon. Still, it’s nice to see awareness getting out there and attempts to use technology to work for us in this respect. If we can bring 33 people who’d been trapped underground in a mine for 69 days back up into the light, maybe we can save that many people and more from a nightmare with no discernible walls.