Cyberbullies on Campus: The Real UCF Problem

Let me start off by telling you a little about myself. Hi friends, I’m Maddie. I’m a marketing student with a GPA that warrants lots of scholarships, a hard worker with a rather impressive employment record for a 22-year-old, and a human being with a passion for treating people with respect. I also help to run a handful of high-profile social media accounts on the UCF campus, you all probably know me best as Her Campus UCF’s Social Media Director (follow @hercampusucf). I really love using social media, it is a way to both personally and professionally connect with others and contribute positively to society when used correctly.

Here’s the problem though- it seems like not everyone sees the positive power of social media. Cyber bullies are everywhere, from the halls of your middle school alma mater to our college campuses. Sadly, even our “adult” status does not protect us from the harsh words of bullies hiding behind computer screens.

Recently, our baseball-playing Knights kicked some serious Gator butt, and I went on social to congratulate the boys. I innocently tweeted, “But seriously, we all know that UCF > UF. Congrats on the big win, @UCF_Baseball! #ChargeOn”. In my eyes, and probably the eyes of most, this is not very offensive at all. I’m a really proud Knight, and I love when fellow Knights do great things, because it gets our school’s name out in a positive way. Unfortunately, my little reference to a fairly nonexistent rivalry almost immediately got a pretty nasty response from a Gator fan. I blocked the user after repeated harassment, but it was something along the lines of, “Sry ur too stupid to get into UF!! #gogata”. Um… ok. Well, I didn’t know this rude girl personally, so I’ll give her a little benefit of the doubt, but not only did I “get into UF”, I attended that university for a year and maintained a 3.8 GPA, then transferred to UCF because I felt more accepted in the warm culture of Orlando. She also proceeded to call me a “fatty”, not a nice thing to say, but also I highly doubt that anyone who has ever seen me would call me fat (I’ve been teased my whole life for my bony ribs and massive thigh gap, but I digress).  I have pretty thick skin, so I blocked the girl and moved on with my life.

Last weekend though, an account called @ucf_problems tweeted something wildly insensitive, and as a vocal feminist, I couldn’t let their ignorance go unnoticed. Here’s a screenshot of our short but eye-opening exchange.

Alright, @ucf_problems. Do you want to know why I’m taking this sh*t so seriously? For starters, when this rude tweet was initially sent to me by a friend, I immediately thought that it was making fun of me. Maybe that’s my ego talking, but I’ve been cyber bullied since we were all carrying around Moto RAZRs, so that isn’t a crazy assumption. I’m in each frame, rocking a Lilly Pulitzer maxi and Ray-Bans. Turns out, Mr. UCF Problems, you were actually making fun of the lovely bearded gentleman standing next to me, a man who took time out of his day to raise awareness of rape victim shaming.  I’m taking this seriously because you were quick to negatively judge a strong group of women and men before knowing what was going on. I’m taking this seriously because anonymous cyber bullying based on appearance, gender identity, political affiliation, and passion for making the world a safe place is WRONG. And, I’m taking this really seriously because with an audience of over eleven thousand followers, your hateful voice is heard by many more than our peaceful protest’s compassionate one.

I'm offended because you are making fun of me and my peers, a passionate group of individuals who had the courage to march around campus, raising our voices for our friends who have survived violent and hateful acts. I'm offended because your ignorant tweet attempts to tear down the voices of those who are brave enough to stand in front of a massive student body and peacefully fight for positive change. I'm offended because what you said was offensive- to both those in the photo and to the women, men, and children around the world who just want to live safe lives.

Mr. UCF Problems, your account claims to be a "parody". Parody is a comedic writing style, and there is nothing funny about making fun of student activists. Your anonymous account is not a parody, it is a forum where users can bully other students without any repercussions. There isn't anything funny about ignorance or being cruel to others.

But, Mr. UCF Problems, since you only seem to communicate via tweet, I’ll spell it out for you in 140 characters or less.

“@ucf_problems, your violent and ignorant voice is uncalled for. Cyberbullying is a bigger problem than anything you’ve ever tweeted about.”

And to my fellow Knights, stand up against these hateful acts. Stand up to bullies, and make your kind voices heard. It's really easy to be nice to people on the internet, as well as in face-to-face interactions. We attend an amazing university, and it is up to us to keep this community safe for ourselves and our fellow Knights.