“This is what you signed up for.”
“This was part of the deal.”
“Can’t deal with it? Get out of the limelight.”
This, and many other phrases, are thrown into celebrities faces whenever they speak up about public humiliation and/or bullying. We millennials have grown accustomed, sadly, to hearing the words “bullying” or “cyberbullying” on the daily, leading many to become desensitized to the issue. If we want to understand why, even though there are a lot of campaigns against it, cyberbullying keeps happening, we need to go back to its beginnings and define it.
Curiously enough, stopcyberbullying.org defines this word as the moment “when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.” This action must be incited by a minor and targeted at a minor, too. For the website, the instance an adult is involved then it is plain “cyber-harassment” or “cyberstalking”. But in all honesty, bullying (cyber or not) has no discrimination against race, color or age: when it hits, it’s bad. At some point in our lives, we’ve suffered or seen an instace of cyberbullying, whether it be our younger siblings or a classmate having to deal with snarky comments made online. But what about people who are total strangers but seem so familiar to us that we feel the right to give our opinions about their lives? Have we asked ourselves how celebrities must feel when we comment on how “ugly” they looked at an event or judge them based on their beliefs or personal decisions? Let’s take, for instance, what the world (and the victim herself) believe to be the first ever case of cyberbullying.
Meet Monica Lewinsky. At just 22 years old, Monica made a decision, a consensual decision, between her and a male partner that has made her a target whenever we talk about public scandals and adultery. She is known for having had an affair with former President of the United States, Bill Clinton. After years of practically disappearing from the face of the Earth, Monica is back and she’s breaking her silence. In a recent TED convention, this woman talked about how “the stealing of people’s private words, actions and conversations and making them public” wasn’t something that happened often in 1998. She admits that, if there was a name for it then, this would be considered cyberbullying. Her story was viciously spread through magazines and television. To think that people hadn’t yet discovered the ‘evil’ power the Internet possessed for taking these matters and making them viral seemed like a blessing to her, she says.
Now, Lewinsky is not the only “public” figure that might have suffered from an attack online from a mass of people. Charlotte Dawson, Australia’s Next Top Model host, had started receiving attacks through her social networks account and she attempted suicide in 2012. Since then, she started being an advocate against this type of bullying. Unfortunately, many saw this as a hypocritical stance because the host often humiliated and heavily criticized participants of the Australian show. This constant criticism from the public about her campaign drove her into, once again, attempting suicide in 2014, but this time Dawson succeeded. There’s all sorts of cyberbullying and one of them is the one we indulge in the most. Trolling? Memes? These are all forms of so-called Internet humor that can turn vicious. Even so that when Adele’s son was born Internet trolls started posting memes of the child and this didn’t sit well with the Grammy-winning singer.
Why do we do these things? There’s not a scientific explanation as to why the human being seems to be inclined to use memes and harsh words towards others. There’s not a psychological explanation that makes us go: “Oh! THAT’S why!” and honestly, we don’t need one. We live in an era where it’s easy and at our arm’s reach to make a mean comment and not think or have to deal with a reaction from the person sitting behind that laptop, mobile or TV screen. But we’d like to believe we’re also in the era where there’s no exemption from the anti-cyberbullying campaign. The same way we advocate for our college, high school, and neighborhood friends should be the same way we advocate for celebrities, models, and our public figures. If we tell that guy from our Literature class to stop posting sexist memes, then why shouldn’t we stand up for public figures like Monica, Jennifer Lawrence (let’s not forget the nude photos, people!) and Ellen Page (who has also received death threats)? They might be famous, but they’re people too.
References used include articles by: