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‘Bully’ is the new ‘Gay’

May 25, 2012

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I recently have had a conversation with a friend that made me want to write about issues of privacy, harassment and bullying in our current information age.

Many people are afraid of things like Facebook and the internet in general because of how they compromise our safety and privacy. For people with a history of being bullied or who deal with social anxiety of any type, these fears can be overwhelming. I avoided things like Facebook for a long time myself for many of these reasons.

I was never bullied or harassed in the extreme ways that we see in the media these days but I was far from the most popular kid in school; especially in my younger years. Because of this, I developed a rather introverted personality. (Not anymore, obviously – now you can’t shut me up!)

You can imagine how difficult teaching high school may have been for me, but being a teacher is what helped me overcome much of my insecurity and anxiety. The more my students learned about me, the less they cared about trivial things and the more I started to realize that as long as I wasn’t hurting anyone and doing my job well, nothing else mattered.

As terrifying as social media can be, I am starting to believe that it is also the cure to the very anxiety it provokes.

In its infancy, people took advantage of social media to learn little tidbits about others that they might not disclose otherwise. For example, MySpace and Facebook have made ‘gaydar’ a lost art. When you are curious if a new friend is gay, do you still ask them directly (or indirectly – So, do you have a girlfriend? What kind of girls are you interested in?) Or do you just friend them on Facebook and look up the answer later?

This isn’t really a bad thing as I once thought it was. Now that this has all become mainstream, 99% of us just don’t care anymore. And the 1% that does often gets pounced on so fast that they don’t dare share their ignorant or hurtful comments with the world, lest they become the bullied.

The bully has become more of a minority than the LGBT community. Think about it – if you believe in the old 10% of people are gay rule, what percent of the community do you believe is truly hateful? I officially know more transgendered people than homophobic people. When could anyone have ever made such a comment? This information age has transitioned from a vulnerability to a shield for those of us who are different and it is a wonderful thing.

Most of the people who are traditionally considered bullies aren’t as much bullies as they are gossips. They get a thrill out of breaking new and scandalous news – even if it is hurtful to others. This is pretty ignorant and hurtful but it often isn’t willful – it is just immaturity. Social media is protecting us from that too. This happens in two ways.

First of all, we are so connected that it is impossible to be the one who breaks any kind of story. That thrill is gone. It is like those stupid cell phone commercials where people excitedly approach friends and co-workers with breaking news, only to learn that their friends have already posted that fact to every form of social media through their ‘lightning fast 4G network’ eons ago.

Second of all, The amount of information and people is so overwhelming that to scour through it all looking for one scandalous tidbit just isn’t worth the time and effort anymore.

And also, that amount of information is so vast that by the time you find that perfectly embarrassing photo of the annoying guy who works in the next cubicle, you have also learned that he has the same favorite sports teams as you, likes the same kind of music and that he is only so annoying lately because he is going through a tough divorce. And suddenly, you don’t have the desire to destroy him anymore.  In fact, the next thing you know he is over your house watching the game and having a beer.

I’m not saying we should be careless about sharing and using social media, but I am suggesting that the benefits are very much starting to outweigh the negatives – unless of course you are a bully.

The only thing worse than a bunch of straight guys beating someone up for being gay is a straight guy getting beaten up by a bunch of drag queens for beating up the gay kid.

Hell hath no fury like a drag queen with 12 inch stilettos – and knows how to use them!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 25, 2012 2:56 pm

    Beautiful piece Matt. And I think you are correct about social media. As you said, no one should–that is if they have half a brain–post all of their business on social media websites. Yet, it has made the world much smaller in so many ways. And you are so correct about teaching (I come from several generations of educators), and about drag queens–I’m laughing out loud at that one.

    • Linda Wolfe permalink
      May 29, 2012 10:13 am

      Thanks, Matt. Enjoyed the positive, intelligent perspective and the laughs. Hope you had a wonderful Memorial weekend.

    • June 21, 2012 9:29 pm

      Not smaller – just more accessable. I’m not exactly old but even when I was in school if something sparked my interest, the chances of me finding more information and resources was not only slim – but it was beyond what this ADD brain’s attention span could handle. If I had been born ten years later I can’t imagine what my life would be like.

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