I would hate to be a teenager now, with social media invading our every waking moment and some subconscious moments too, it’s far too easy to become a victim of bullying. New terms have been invented ‘cyber bullying’ ‘trolling’ to name a couple of tame ones and as this new wave of hate takes over it seems that teenagers are predominantly in the spotlight inciting hate, riots and openly mocking the tragic deaths of many youngsters, I struggle to work out where it all went wrong?
When I was at school, which wasn’t all that long ago, mobile phones had only just been introduced to the masses and you didn’t need to carry a briefcase to own one, pagers were more common. So when the pager trend hit it was just a starter for the mobile phone main course. I don’t remember everyone having a pager but those who did loved them and the ability to converse in a whole new way and so the emergence of mobile social media began. Around this time MSN Messenger was also quite popular and I spent many an hour after school chatting to friends who I’d left less than an hour previously talking about the events of that day. Next came mobile phones, if I remember rightly I was 16/17 when I got a mobile, I’d just started sixth form and the text messaging craze began in earnest but it wasn’t until I reached my twenties that I realised my mobile phone had become and extension of my right arm. I quickly got into bad habits, never switching my phone off at night in case I missed anything(?!), my little Nokia brick needed charging constantly, despite texting never calling….that was far too much hassle actually talking to someone! This impersonal approach quickly escalated with the introduction of our family computer. I never bothered with Myspace, couldn’t really figure it all out so when I joined Facebook around 2006 I instantly got to work on uploading tons of photo’s from our work nights out and other random adventures and shared them with the world. Now 6 years on I’m more cautious of what information is available online but with Facebook and Twitter constantly changing the goal posts on security and ‘sharing’ it’s becoming impossible to keep up, leaving many with no option other than to deactivate their accounts.
I think I have been quite lucky in that I have only received a handful of negative comments/status’ during my 6 years online, compared to some this is just a drop in the ocean. There are pages and pages online specifically set up to mock, abuse and hurt others, for what gain? Despicable people who go out of their way to contact grieving parents or those who have disabled children purely to mock them should be reprimanded with an iron fist, but how do you police online behaviour and what punishment would be right? My generation did their fight picking in person or by writing on the wall of the underpass outside of our high school, they did not hide behind a vague FB status that is written especially to cause hurt but not specific enough to be able to point a finger, you know the ones along the lines of ‘Dont you just hate it when people…blagh blagh blagh’ Accusations of lying, two-faced attitudes and violence have become the norm because it’s so easy to type it and press enter.
I worry for my two little girls growing up in this online society. If I say no to them wanting to use the laptop, have social media accounts or shop online will they be mocked for not being the same as their peers? Will they be targeted because I want to protect them? I dread to think how far the online social media world will have developed by the time my little ones are teenagers. It’s so hard to not cave into peer pressure as a parent too, my eldest has an ipod, controlled access to my laptop and my old mobile phone that’s purely for texting her grandparents and she’s only 6! It’s astounding how many toddlers know how to work dvd players and Iphones.To the teenagers of today and tomorrow I feel for you. It’s truly awful that you have to deal with such pressure to conform on a daily basis, to agonize over the consequences if you dare to stand out from the crowd and be constantly reminded of it every time you pick up your phone or start-up your computer. Bring back pen & ink?