Cyber Space: An Audience Participation Soap Opera Playing Out in a Parallel Universe

I’ve been following a lot of the commentary with regard to “what to do about bullies” and it seems to me that if the solution is dependent on bullies being defined as a new sub-category of  human and governed accordingly, we may as well prepare for more of the tragic consequences of their devilwork.

Bullying is a behaviour that, while we’re all quite capable of exhibiting it from time to time, should be discouraged in as much as possible, and mitigated, by teaching kids how to recognize and react to it.

Then we need to back up the teaching with support groups because support groups work by proving to us that we are not alone. How many years do we have to have AA before we accept that no money down, peer to peer support, is the answer to almost every problem we have.

People who need people, as the song goes.

But, of course, I’m really talking about the commentary that is a reaction to the latest teen suicide, a suicide that has been attributed to the cyber bullying that occurred after a young teen flashed her breasts to cyber space.

In Canada, year of our lord 2012.

Meanwhile, on the other side of humanity, the Taliban is gunning down  teenaged girls for advocating on behalf of better educations.

To me, both cases are rooted in the same misogyny. Why was it so easy to convince a Canadian teenager that flashing her breasts to cyber space was so wrong that she was driven to take her own life, when there’s nothing actually wrong with flashing her breasts to cyber space at all.

Just as there’s nothing wrong with exposing female brains to education.

Nothing is wrong with breasts. Nothing is wrong with showing off your breasts. It is legal for women to go topless in Ontario – and rightly so – ferchrissakes. And yet, it was possible for cyber bullies to torment a girl to her death for doing so.

So why aren’t schools teaching girls that there’s nothing wrong with showing off their breasts, that it’s entirely up to them if they want to flash cyber space, that anyone who comments negatively is a hater and best ignored?

Canadian girls are the freest girls in the world but we just witnessed one killing herself as a direct result of the tormenting she could not endure after flashing her breasts to cyber space.

But, of course, she was just a girl, not an adult, which is something many of us who have only been online as adults forget. It took me years to toughen up to “the haters” as one’s cyber critics are often called.  (In real life we call them “misogynists”.) Kids don’t have those tough skins, and they can’t develop them in time to deal with the freedom they have to “do whatever they want” as one teenaged girl put how it is in cyber space.

Because that’s just it, isn’t it. Cyber space isn’t real, no matter how addicted we may be to it, and so there will always be a tendency for people to “do whatever they want” in it. (And this very wise girl on CBC last night was really referring to “the haters”, but I kind of think of cyber space as a place to do whatever I want, too, although all I want is to be read, so thank you dear Sooey Says reader(s).)

And teenaged girls are impulsive, they love drama, it’s nothing for a teenaged girl to get in over her head on a cell phone call to her friend, let alone in cyber space to the world, a world that includes haters, a world that includes people doing whatever they want.

My definition of cyber space: an audience participation soap opera playing out in a parallel universe.

The genie is out of the bottle, though, that’s what the commentariat (?) needs to understand. A bully brigade puts the focus on bullies and bullies can be anybody. What kids who get in over their heads in cyber space need are “Online Anonymous” support groups – in their schools.

And they need them yesterday.

Adults know, or eventually figure out (I did, so anybody can) go offline and – poof – the haters disappear. Go online again and – shit! – they’re still there. And so you stay off a little longer. And – voila! – either the plot has shifted, or, more likely, you have.

Also, before I end this entry, I just want to tell all the hindsight experts to shut the fuck up, go to hell, piss up a drainpipe, and stop implying that the parents, teachers, anyone other than the haters, are to blame for ignoring “cries for help” from teenagers who commit suicide. I have three young adults and life is enough of a crap shoot that I don’t know any sane parent who doesn’t go through it with fingers and toes crossed. To imply that a parent is somehow responsible for the suicide of a child who happens to be theirs should be punishable by… well… maybe the Taliban has the answer.

1 Comment

  1. Very likely the best commentary I’ve come across about this tragedy!