Facebook Fits

I have lots of questions.

Throwing a tantrum when we were young was frowned upon, but also understandable. A child may feel misunderstood and confused, and verbalizing needs or wants can be difficult. Melting into tears, stomping away, or puffing up with self-righteous fury are common reactions when children are dealing with an array of feelings they do not understand.

As we mature, we hope to develop better coping skills. Instead of uncontrollably placing sentiments on display, successful adults learn to effectively handle emotions. Whether it is going for a run to clear our mind or calling a friend to discuss an issue, we know that we need to find an outlet and method that best expresses our emotions.

In recent years social media has given us a new avenue for communication. Many times this new method of expression provides opportunities for us to spread good thoughts and make healthy connections. But social media has also become an instrument of regression and exposes our nasty traits. This phenomenon is not exclusive to inexperienced young people. Adults are frequently taking that troubling turn online, and impulse actions have a whole new meaning in the realm of Facebook, Instagram, and other online forums.

When talking to someone face to face we are able to see how our words and actions can be hurtful. It is obvious when someone begins to cry that we have said or done something to hurt them. That intimate element of relationships is removed on social media sites such as Facebook. Adults, not just adolescents, are disgorging awful words against other people or groups of people. Then others join in the discussions cultivating hate.

Recently scrolling through Facebook I have seen middle-aged adults posting hateful words and photographs about college athletes. More adults have joined in on the conversation threads, and they gang up on young adults who are basically children trying to navigate the beginning stages of their adulthood. It is one thing to dispute the presidential campaign on Facebook, it is another to post a picture and ridicule a young person you do not know.

Bullying in middle or high school is awful, but we are taking that to another level in the world of social media. Adults are joining in on what I assume they believe is humorous banter in this public forum. Social media makes bullying acceptable and so much worse because mindless words and gossip can be instantly shared with many people. All of this is done for someone to blow off some steam or for a good laugh.

We can choose to not participate in social media, or we can scroll past these posts, but then are we part of the problem? This is about us as a society and the acceptance of this behavior. A young person being bullied by peers is frightening, but as adults we are supposed to protect children and have better coping and communication skills.

I completely understand that we all have flaws and moments of emotional eruptions. Learning about bullies, I also understand that they have a negative view of themselves and picking on others helps them feel better. But continuing to pass by, accept, or even join in on this behavior has tremendous negative effects on us as a society. The growing power play posts may seem harmless to some, but just like sitting back and watching a bully push someone into a locker in a school hallway, we are allowing people to push others down like it does not matter.

If someone makes cryptic or passive aggressive posts that involve me, I can ignore them. But what do I do when I see them do this to others? We all can try to avoid a bully’s bait, but do we continue to not speak out on behalf of our friends and colleagues? We see the world changing around us; do we slip into this trend or hide behind our defenses? These are my questions.

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