Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The anonymous social bullying network (and the horse it rode in on...)

This makes me sick.

Just read a Chicago Tribune column about a social network site, the name of which I'm not repeating because I don't want to give them any publicity.

It appears that tweens and teens love to use this site to harass their peers. They especially love it because you can do so anonymously.

Police officer Jim Koch, a school resource officer at Vernon Hills High in Illinois, is quoted as saying he talks with students and parents daily about teens like Alexis Pilkington, 17, from New York, who killed herself after verbal abuse showed up on the site and other online ports of call.

"It's like a bathroom wall," Koch is quoted as saying. "You write whatever you want."

First off, I have no use whatsoever for anonymous comments. It takes absolutely no guts. No guts at all. I have a personal policy to try to respond to anyone who calls or e-mails me about a story or a community issue -- if they leave their name. Unless it's a security issue, or it's a positive comment and you're just being modest, I have no use for Anonymous. I sign my name on every piece I write.

Secondly, to have a site like this that allows teens -- or anybody -- to post this kind of garbage anonymously is pathetic. I have read stories about kids having to face known bullies on various social networking sites. That's bad enough. Anonymous is beyond asinine.

I've noticed a tendency among some (but by no means all) young people -- and this is really nothing new -- to be absolutely awful to one another. Never really have understood it. I think back to stuff I witnessed in high school. Whoever wrote "sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me" never experienced real life. The pen, and the mouth, and now the mouse, are indeed mightier than the sword.

Bullies are a part of life. Standing up to them can be tough -- but can also be one of life's greatest joys!

That doesn't mean we should condone this crap. Cyber bullying may be worse than the real thing because it's 24/7. At least in the old days one could get away from it for awhile after 3:30.

Anonymous hazing is bad enough. Enabling, and I guess profiting, from it is beyond bad.

(If you live in Knoxville, TN, you can read a version of the Tribune piece by Duaa Eldeib in today's [12/14/10] News Sentinel.)

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