Yahoo Voices asked Americans what they’d like their country to accomplish in 2014. Here’s one response.
COMMENTARY | For many people, entering the New Year means asking, “What can I do to better myself?” The answers are usually generic things, such as lose weight or save money. A more difficult question would be, “What do you want from your country in 2014?” Personally, I had to think about this for a bit. I thought about what other people might say; some may answer politically, and others may answer personally. My answer doesn’t fall into either of those categories. What I really want is something from the people of this country: a promise to help stop cyber bullying.
Instances of Americans hating on one another is all around us. I’m 29 years old and live in the very small town of Rose Hill, Kan., where nothing much ever happens. Even this quiet, quaint slice of the Midwest is not immune to bullying. Unfortunately, the Internet makes it all too easy to put people down that don’t live in the same city, state, or even country. All over the world, people are made to feel bad for being too fat, too thin, suffering from mental issues, or battling addictions. That’s really just the tip of the iceberg; it seems like these days, someone can be berated for simply existing.
Social media is absolutely ripe with negativity. I’ve seen it on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube; by far the worst offender in my eyes, however, is Twitter. I see verbal attacks on Twitter every day, from “You’re so stupid!” to “I wish you would just go kill yourself.” It’s bad enough that the person the insult was directed at reads it, but things posted to social media can be seen by virtually everyone. We’ve seen enough news stories about people committing suicide because they were bullied online to know that words can be dangerous. It’s disheartening to think that there are individuals here in the U.S. (and elsewhere in the world) who are tormented to the point that they don’t think there is any other way to escape it.
People feel safe behind their computers and therefore are more apt to say nasty, hateful things they wouldn’t give voice to in person. The first amendment gets thrown around a lot, to excuse what is said. Yes, we have freedom of speech and I am thankful for that, but I would also argue that we have to use it responsibly. I get it; it’s easy to get mad at someone and lash out, yet it doesn’t solve anything to call them names or attack their appearance. When the only purpose it serves is to make an individual feel bad about themselves, it’s better left unsaid.
I realize one article is not going to end cyber bullying. Even I am guilty; I’ve said hurtful things in the past and have chosen to turn a blind eye when I saw others being put down. I can never take that back, but what I can do is make a pledge for 2014. I pledge to help stop cyber bullying by standing up for others and not being a bully myself. I don’t believe it’s asking too much from our country to do this; if only a few of you pledge to do the same, we can make an impact. It may be small, but as the proverb says, “From small beginnings come great things.”