Monday, October 10, 2011

Maybe It's Because It's OK to be Mean

MTV teams up with the Associated Press to issue another study about the impact of the networked world on the age-old problem of bullying (I am loath to give into the pseudo-hip "cyber-bullying").

MTV does have a very serious phrase for this: "youth digital abuse". It goes with their A Thin Line program to address same.

Let me pause a moment to consider, the network that probably exploits more personal situations for it's own reality programing is worried about the impact of insults hurled around the internet. I'm not quite sure whether to call that self-aware or self-deluded.

The findings are "shocking": "It's worse online because everybody sees it," one 24-year-old said. "And once anything gets online, you can't get rid of it."

Sound familiar?

Perhaps I'm being a bit cynical, but isn't the entire point of this media generation the self-exploitation of personal trauma? From "real world" series to psychological interventions ranging from drugs to food to hording, we spend so much time watching reality TV that hardly anyone has time to experience reality. Or more to the point, reality isn't quite as exciting as the heightened reality of network shows.

What's at the heart of a lot of that? Hurting people. Oh, the Bachelor/Bachelorette didn't mean to break their hearts. The color analyst didn't mean to insult the college athlete by calling out a failure. The debate moderator didn't intend to hurt a candidate by asking about their personal lives.

If we are honest with each other, a lot of what goes for entertainment is Greek tragedy, and the person that dies in the end might lot lose their life, but the likely lost their dignity.

Here's the catch -- social media tools not only give us the power to self publish and be a part of the thought leadership formerly known as the media, they also give us the ability to be as nasty, catty, insulting as the meanest of mean girls.

With the added bonus of a screen name behind which to hide, or at least the distance of a computer screen. A lot of the discourse pointed out by the survey got a punch in the nose or a slap across the face; a good drink thrown at the least.

To quote the AP story on the report:

Plus, 75 percent of young people think people do or say things online that they wouldn't do or say face to face.


I can be a simple man at times, and occasionally the most complex problems really have easy solutions.

Do onto others online as you would have others do onto you.

Please, don't get me wrong. This is serious. I've had family members attacked on-line. I've been the subject of some light-weight bashing myself.

But maybe, just maybe, the media outlet famous for The Real Life could take a moment to consider what their role is in fostering a climate in which it's OK to trash acquaintances in public.

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